As part of aviation’s commitment to tackling climate change, the industry recognizes that there is an ever-increasing need to focus on improving aircraft technologies.
The key measures that industry have identified as a necessary area of attention, to meet the demands of the net-zero emissions goal are summarised below:
- Core Technologies
- Third-Generation Technologies
- Sustainable Aviation Fuels
Ensuring that adequate resources are fed into each of these ‘levers’ is paramount to enabling progression and ultimately bringing the aviation industry closer to net-zero. Major US Airlines have also committed to the net-zero carbon emissions target of 2050.
Furthermore, there is agreement within industry that alongside Government investment and policy implementation, improvements in the measures above can help achieve aviation’s climate change aspirations.
1. Core Technology
Improvement in aircraft design, engine design, fuel efficiency and weight reduction are all focusses of this lever. With the emergence of more advanced technologies such as composite materials, foldable wingtips and system electrification, the industry has not ceased on improving existing aircraft designs.
Recent blogs on Core Technology
- Milestone reached in Wing of Tomorrow programme
- Rolls-Royce and Airbus sign UltraFan engine integration collaboration agreement
- Rolls-Royce runs lean-burn combustion engine for first time
2. Third Generation Technology
Hydrogen fuel cell technology, hydrogen combustion, hybrid-electric systems and morphing & blended wing designs are all areas of importance when it comes to looking for the next step change in improving current aircraft configurations.
Industry is at the forefront of developing these technologies and it could have a massive impact. UK Sustainable Aviation (UKSA) predicts that improvements in these areas could mitigate one-third of the UK’s predicted CO2 emissions by 2050.
Recent blogs on Third Generation Technology
- Rolls-Royce has completed testing of their ground-breaking technology
- MTU Aero Engines: hydrogen puts the future at our fingertips
- Airbus reveals new zero emission concept aircraft
- Cranfield University helps ZeroAvia conduct world’s first hydrogen electric passenger aircraft flight
- BAE Systems designing aircraft power sources to clear electric flight
3. Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)
As a solution for both current aircraft and next generation aircraft, ensuring that aircraft can operate on 100% SAF blend fuels should be a clear priority for the industry. It can also deliver economic benefits, “Putting economic stimulus funds behind the development of a large-scale, competitive SAF market would be a triple win — creating jobs, fighting climate change and sustainably connecting the world,” said Alexandre de Juniac, the outgoing director general and CEO of IATA.
Currently only up to 50% SAF blends are certified, and if the UK industry were to adopt SAF nationwide it could reduce CO2 emissions by at least 32% by 2050 according to UKSA.
Rolls-Royce is to due to start testing the use of 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in a Trent engine. Paul Stein, Rolls-Royce Chief Technology Officer, said: “Aviation is a tremendous force for good, keeping the world connected, but we have to do that sustainably. These tests aim to show that we can deliver real emissions reductions. If SAF production can be scaled up – and aviation needs 500 million tonnes a year by 2050 – we can make a huge contribution for our planet.”
Recent blogs on Sustainable Aviation Fuels
- IATA wants post-COVID-19 green recovery to embrace SAF
- BP and NESTE offer sustainable aviation fuel
- NESTE and Shell enter into a SAF supply agreement