As aviation is nowadays one of the top polluters, aircraft manufacturer Airbus is now sharing their thoughts on how aviation should look by 2050. They devised a handful of measures that should be taken to regulate how fleets should be operated in the most sustainable way possible.
Therefore, they described all of their engineers’ ideas and concepts in the latest Future by Airbus Smarter Skies. For example, if the Air Traffic Management and the onboard technology would be upgraded, around 9 million tons of fuel could be saved annually, which would in turn save over 28 million tons of CO2 emitted into the air. That translates into 5 million less spent in the air (per year). That is a staggering 570 years, the lives of 8 people living up to an average of 70.
The Smarter Skies vision contains five concepts.
Quoting Airbus, these are:
Aircraft take-off in continuous ‘eco-climb’
- Aircraft launched through assisted take-offs using renewably powered, propelled acceleration, allowing steeper climb from airports to minimise noise and reach efficient cruise altitudes quicker.
- As space becomes a premium and mega-cities become a reality, this approach could also minimise land use, as shorter runways could be utilised.
Aircraft in free flight and formation along ‘express skyways’
- Highly intelligent aircraft would be able to “self-organise” and select the most efficient and environmentally friendly routes (“free flight”), making the optimum use of prevailing weather and atmospheric conditions.
- High frequency routes would also allow aircraft to benefit from flying in formation like birds during cruise bringing efficiency improvements due to drag reduction and lower energy use.
Low-noise, free-glide approaches and landings
- Aircraft allowed to take free glide approaches into airports that reduce emissions during the overall decent and reduce noise during the steeper approach as there is no need for engine thrust or air breaking.
- These approaches would also reduce the landing speed earlier which would make shorter landing distances achievable (less runway needed).
Low emission ground operations
- On landing aircraft engines could be switched off sooner and runways cleared faster, ground handling emissions could be cut.
- Technology could optimise an aircraft’s landing position with enough accuracy for an autonomous renewably powered taxiing carriage to be ready, so aircraft could be transported away from runways quicker, which would optimise terminal space, and remove runway and gate limitations.
Powering future aircraft and infrastructure
- The use of sustainable biofuels and other potential alternative energy sources (such as electricity, hydrogen, solar etc) will be necessary to secure supply and further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint in the long term. This will allow the extensive introduction of regionally sourced renewable energy close to airports, feeding both aircraft and infrastructure requirements sustainably.
Along with these measures, the implementation of electric motors is still an optimistic thought that’s still in its infancy. However, it could be achieved once the electric car industry is put in place and cheaper/better batteries are invented.
One way or another, Airbus already predicts (and hopes) that people will fly more in the future and this should encourage all kinds of cleaner technologies to emerge, just to reduce costs and increase safety.