From collaboration come greener operations
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), new aircraft with low emissions… These technologies are regularly brought up, both in the aviation world and in general media, as holding great promises for a more sustainable future. However, today neither SAF nor low emissions aircraft are ready to be fully implemented, which means that their impact on sustainability will not be felt for quite some time still.
The question Thales has been asking itself over the past few years is: why wait? While new technologies are being tested, tried and certified to ensure safety and efficiency, why not leverage what is already are our disposal to start acting today for a better tomorrow? Like optimisation of Air Traffic Management (ATM) operations for example.
Being clear on key challenges…
The need to reduce CO2 emissions in the aviation world has now been clearly defined and accepted. Yet the technological innovations poised to make a significant difference, such as SAF (61% CO2 emissions reduction) and low emissions aircraft (22% CO2 emissions reductions), are unlikely to be ready and make a significant impact in the next five-to-ten years.
Leveraging decades of experience and client relations in the fields of ATM and avionics, Thales has been analysing closely processes and flight paths around the world to seek innovative, short-term solutions. The outcome of this analysis shows that by optimising operations - such as flight paths, ground operations and weather optimisation - it would be possible to reduce CO2 emissions tomorrow on long haul flights by up to 11% and on short haul flights by up to 14.7%.
Just as importantly, number of these actions could also have a significant impact on reducing non-CO2 emissions, which represent two thirds of aviation’s total climate impact.
...And identify clear action potential…
Once a baseline and monitoring tools have been established and implemented, it is time to act on optimising operations. By addressing key operational issues - such as non-optimised time of descent, airborne delays, etc - Optimizing flight trajectories and air traffic management can have a substantive impact on aviation’s CO2 and non-CO2 emissions today.
Thales' Green Flag Concept
Developed for the Provert study by Thales, DSNA (France' air navigation services provider) and Air France, the Green Flag concept aims to do just that by leveraging digital tools to facilitate communication and coordination between main actors - such as Air Traffic Controllers (ATCO), pilots, airlines and Flow Management Positions (FMP) - during both planification and tactical phases. More specifically, Green Flag supports ATCs in identifying spaces that are favourable to eco-friendly operations on the basis of aircraft trajectory, altitude and speed.
...To see clearly now, together
The Green Flag concept was tested in a laboratory and then in real-life conditions, on two Air France flights between Paris-Orly and Toulouse-Blagnac in March 2022 and has already achieved more than 100kg of CO2 savings per flight. For Thales it is only the beginning. For these operations to have a real impact they need to be implemented a greater scale, starting at national and regional level level but also across the world with trusted partners.
To this end, Thales is working with partners in Singapore and Dubai. It is also working with more than 20 European partners on a new major European project (CONCERTO). Funded through the SESAR 3 JU programme, CONCERTO aims to optimise traffic flows’ environmental performance. Because only through concerted, coordinated action today can we all start to see a clearer path to sustainable aviation, together.