With all the hype around sustainability and decarbonisation in the transportation sector, everything is pointing to achieving net-zero. However, it’s not an easy feat since there are many moving parts but there are some fascinating aviation innovations that could turn the industry on its head.
Rebuilding The Aviation Sector
Even in the face of severe restrictions on air travel during and since the pandemic, experts predict that international aviation will only increase. To answer the call for sustainability, it is vital for the aviation industry to rebuild and find a way to reach the rather ambitious net-zero targets and aviation innovations could be the answer.
One such target comes from the UK which was the first major economy promising to deliver net-zero aviation by 2050. The government subsequently established the Jet Zero Council; the first step toward transforming an industry that contributes a significant amount of global CO2 emissions.
There was even further commitment to sustainable aviation at COP26 which marked the launch of the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition (ICAC). It consists of 26 countries, including the UK, pledging to reduce aviation emissions to meet global emissions targets.
Could Aviation Innovations Help Reach Global Net-Zero Targets?
Sustainable aviation is not something that can (or will) happen overnight as it involves a complete restructuring of the planning, manufacturing and engineering processes.
With some help from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, there are several early-stage projects and prototypes with many businesses working toward delivering aviation innovations that will help rebuild the aviation and aerospace sectors. Here are some of the best aviation innovations currently underway.
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Based in Farnborough, TISICS is leading the way in aviation innovations. By using world-leading Metal Matrix Composite (MMC) technology and additive manufacturing technologies, they design lighter and faster spacecraft and aircraft components.
As a result, they can save up to 40% in weight on landing gear and structures while reducing aircraft engine components by a mammoth 70%. TISICS is certainly playing its part to accelerate the shift toward low carbon air travel in accordance with the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy.
Maverick Aviation Ltd
Thanks to the movie franchise Iron Man, few aviation innovations have created more hype than personal jetpacks. Maverick Aviation Ltd is one such company that develops jetpacks for first responders, rescue services, defence and security services to reach inaccessible areas or perform otherwise difficult tasks rapidly.
The company’s jetpack uses sustainable fuels and a patent-pending vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) system. It’s similar to the technology that allows aircraft to take off, hover and land vertically without using a runway. This means its jetpacks provide a safe and steady flight platform over land and water.
Among other applications, these personal jetpacks can be used in disaster relief areas or rescue operations. It will also help engineers access elevated or remote infrastructure to perform critical maintenance and repairs.
With the epidemic severely harming the airline industry’s profitability and with lower flight volumes expected in the future, improving operational efficiency is a great way to boost profits. Signol is developing technology that encourages lower emission flight and assists in transitioning to a lower-carbon economy.
The data analytics and behavioural science in Signol’s software platform help monitor the performance of airline pilots against individual goals. It provides personalised and customised feedback on fuel-use behaviour which would help encourage pilots to use fuel more efficiently, reducing operating costs and emissions.
Emu Analytics Limited
Among the impressive aviation innovations is a project by Emu Analytics Limited called, ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’. Developed in partnership with Plane Finder and Ferrovia, the goal of this data-driven software is to reduce passenger congestion and waiting times at airports and railway stations.
It combines real-time data from different transport providers, such as Network Rail, to keep passengers informed of an aircraft or train’s movement. If there is any sort of rail or air transport delay, Emu will alert the airport about potential disruptions. As a result, airports can share this up-to-date information with their customers and recommend alternative travel arrangements.
MOOG Controls Ltd
Aeroplanes rely on machines with electric motors using critical components which could fail at higher temperatures due to the degradation of insulation. This issue prompted Moog to improve the temperature capability of its electrical machines to allow them to safely operate in areas they previously couldn’t.
They achieved this by eliminating the need for cooling systems which were necessary up until now. By removing the heavy and expensive cooling systems, future aircraft will be able to save weight and subsequently reduce emissions.
Aviation Innovations For More Sustainable Transport
There are several aviation innovations that could prove critical for the future sustainability of air travel. While we’ve mentioned some ongoing projects in detail in the previous section, here is a quick look at other aviation innovations.
- Electric aircraft – Airbus has already announced working on delivering a completely electric passenger plane by 2030.
- Sustainable fuels – Creating more sustainable fuels also makes the list of important aviation innovations as they can be used by traditional planes and future aircraft, including biofuels and algae-based fuels.
- Reducing the weight of aircraft means using less fuel and emitting fewer emissions. Aside from going electric, reducing weight is one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions
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Aviation Innovations For Better Air Traffic Control
Improved air traffic management can also help promote sustainable aviation. Since some air traffic management systems are inefficient, aviation innovations here could lead to significant reductions in emissions.
Using Alternative Materials For Next-Gen Aviation Innovations
Using alternative materials is another area of importance in creating a more sustainable sector. Using materials such as bamboo, cork and paper instead of metal and plastic could help to create more sustainable aircraft.
These are just a few of the many aviation innovations but it is clear that the focus has shifted. As promising as it all may seem, a lot of work still needs to be done to make aviation more sustainable. However, with the right aviation innovations and buy-in from all the stakeholders, anything is possible!
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