A Pathway to Innovation
The aeronautical industry is under pressure to reduce its impact on the environment. Even though no other has invested as much money in improving its performance, aviation emissions and noise keep being motives of concern for government and the general public.
Leading manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus have seen in Flight Labs and testing programs a very efficient alternative to bring innovation to processes and prototypes for the next generation. They frequently conduct a series of studies and gather and analyse data to provide a series of initiatives on the way to monitor and mitigate their impact on the ecosystems.
The European Union has established for 2050 that aviation should reduce its CO2 emissions and noise by 75% and 65% accordingly.
For instance, The EcoDemonstrator program by Boeing focuses on bringing innovation. By designing and testing new and more sustainable aircraft, the company aims to improve in several aspects of the aviation of the future. To achieve this goal and in cooperation with Etihad Airways, in 2020 new ideas were being tested in a series of flights on Etihad’s B787 -10 Dreamliner. In particular, Boeing wanted to explore technologies to reduce emissions and noise.
In every test flight performed during Etihad's EcoDemonstrator program, Boeing used a blend of up to 50% sustainable aviation fuel. The highest permissible blend of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
During testing, a series of flights gathered the most detailed NASA aircraft noise information to date from approximately 1,200 microphones attached to the outside of the 787 and also positioned on the ground.
The information will improve NASA’s aircraft noise prediction capabilities, advance ways for pilots to reduce noise and inform future quiet aircraft designs.
Other initiatives and developments were:
Cabin Sanitizing Tech: An ultraviolet light wand and antimicrobial coating that can help sanitize airplane cabin and flight decks.
Efficient Arrival: Time-based management arrivals demo to improve airspace and operational efficiency.
Safran Landing Gear Noise Reduction with a positive result and quieter for the community.
Airbus Flight Lab is doing quite visible work on innovation and is already testing in real-world environment future technologies. By using flight test platforms such as A320, A330/A340, A350 and A380, the company can measure a variety of improvements.
Innovative technologies at Airbus
VTOL Noise Measurement: The Vertical Takeoff and Landing Bluecopter demonstrator has tested a sound reduction technology optimized by an improved blade ad stator design on the Fenestron. Also, CityAirbus and Vahana VTOL vehicles with their multiple propellers, which are intended to meet a level of sound acceptable that will be significantly more stringent to operate above cities.
Automatic Vision-based Take-off and Vision-based Taxi and Landing Sequences. Airbus accomplished the first fully Automatic Vision-Based Take off on 18 December 2020. Out of the currently used Instrument Landing System (ILS). This automatic take-off was enabled by image recognition technology installed directly on the aircraft.
Hybrid-electric and hydrogen technologies by 2025. It is estimated that hydrogen has the potential to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions by up to 50%. While it is very likely the appearance of future aircraft will change to better accommodate hydrogen storage.