EMERGING CONFIGURATIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE AVIATION
SP's Airbuz|February - March 2021
Aviation contributes two per cent of humanmade Co 2 emissions and has challenged itself to reduce net emissions even while demand for air travel and transport has grown significantly
SUKHCHAIN SINGH

CLIMATE CHANGE HAS BECOME a concern for society now. Aviation contributes two per cent of human-made CO 2 emissions and has challenged itself to reduce net emissions even while demand for air travel and transport has grown significantly. The Air Transport Action Group has pushed the aviation industry to become the world’s first industrial sector to set an ambitious target: reduce CO 2 emissions to half of year 2005 levels by 2050 and to limit the growth of net CO 2 emissions by 2020.

There are three major technological elements to sustainable aviation are:

Continuing to develop aircraft and engine design and technology for improvements in fuel efficiency and reduced CO 2 emissions.

Supporting the commercialisation of sustainable, alternate aviation fuels.

Developing radically new aircraft and propulsion technology and accelerating technologies that will enable the ‘third generation' of aviation.

Other factors, such as efficient air traffic management and aircraft routing that minimises fuel consumption also have a vital part to play. Additionally, the industry has made some significant progress on reducing noise and other environmental impacts.

AIRCRAFT AND ENGINE DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY. For the last 40 years, aircraft and engine technology has reduced CO2 emissions by one per cent per passenger mile. This has been the result of significant investments in R&D in materials, aerodynamic efficiency, digital design and manufacturing methods, turbo-machinery developments and aircraft systems optimisation.

SUSTAINABLE AVIATION FUELS. Aviation will continue to rely on liquid fuels as the fundamental energy source for larger and longer-range aircraft for the foreseeable future. Even under the most optimistic forecast for electric-powered flight, regional and single-aisle commercial airplanes will continue operating with jet fuel for decades to come. Therefore, the development of Sustainable Aviation Fuels that use recycled rather than fossil-based carbon and meet strong, credible sustainability standards is an essential component of a sustainable future. What is needed is government support around the world for technology development, production facility investment, and fuel production incentives. The global aviation industry is closely working with fuel producers, operators, airports, environmental organisations and government agencies to bring these fuels into widespread aviation use well ahead of 2050.

THE THIRD GENERATION OF AVIATION. Aviation’s third generation leap is enabled by advances in new architectures, advanced engine thermodynamic efficiencies, electric and hybrid-electric propulsion, digitisation, artificial intelligence, materials and manufacturing. Larger aircraft will begin to benefit from novel designs that will further improve efficiency through management of aircraft drag and distributing propulsion in new ways. New materials will enable lighter aircraft, further improving efficiency. This third generation in aviation promises a positive impact on lives around the globe.

Aircraft entering service in the next few years will have the same overall configuration as their predecessors. However, they will be equipped with retrofits, serial upgrades and newly designed components and systems, which allow them to have a higher fuel efficiency performance. Another group of new fuel-efficient technologies are under development and planned to be used in new aircraft types in the near future and do not require radically new aircraft configurations.

INDIVIDUAL TECHNOLOGIES. The main contributions to fuel efficiency in evolutionary aircraft design are in the areas of aerodynamics, new engine architecture and systems.

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