The Necessity of Modern Upgrades in Aviation Sector for Greener Air Travel
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Aviation is a naturally inventive sector. Even with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 epidemic, green technology in aviation is being researched at a higher rate than ever before. Various types of sustainable aviation fuels are now available for use in airplanes, and new aircraft technology and operating methods are being developed to reduce CO2.
At different altitudes, aviation has distinct effects on the Earth’s atmosphere. NOx and halogens affect the ozone layer at the highest level in the stratosphere; NOx, CO2, H2O, and particulates affect climate change in the troposphere; and NOx, O2, and particulates affect local air quality, as well as noise pollution from aircraft entering or departing from airport terminals and at ground level.
The Concerning Environmental Challenges
Climate change continues to be a major concern to aviation, and all stakeholders in the industry recognize and understand the need for quick action. The sector is concerned about ‘flight shame,’ the enforcement of environmental-related taxes and regulations, and the rising attention of investors on Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG). While aviation accounts for only 2.5 percent of global CO2 emissions (much less than the public’s perception), its route to lowering its carbon footprint is less evident than that of other industries. The net-zero aim for 2050 is quite ambitious, and achieving it will be a significant challenge for the industry.
Fleet renewal, operational efficiency improvements, technical innovation, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), and, in the short term, carbon offsetting are all components of lowering emissions. Some of these technical elements, such as hydrogen or electric-powered aircraft, are still a long way off from having a significant influence. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is widely agreed to be the immediate priority, with IATA predicting that it would be the key driver of emission reductions over the next decade and beyond. However, the present levels of SAF availability and its current price, which is more than three times that of jet fuel, pose significant hurdles. Governments must play an active role in driving the demand for SAF by providing incentives to attract more manufacturers and investors to the field.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) launched CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) to combat global warming, with the goal of halving CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 2050. Other programs exist, such as the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) waypoint initiative, which aims to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050, while the European Commission Green Deal mandates that Europe be carbon neutral by 2050.
Small Steps for Big Change
By the year 2050, the aviation sector has set a self-imposed aim of reaching net zero carbon emissions. Green technologies in the industry have begun to emerge as a result of this ambitious goal. Sustainable aviation fuel is one such technique (SAF). The popularization of SAFs, out of all the technologies that might potentially bring the aviation industry closer to its environmental targets, shows the most promise in terms of impact and efficacy.
- Limiting Contrails
Aviation produces water vapor, aerosols, and nitrogen oxides in addition to carbon dioxide. Because these pollutants absorb more energy than is emitted out to space, the Earth’s atmosphere warms. As a result, aviation’s contribution to global warming may be considerably greater than its carbon footprint.
Condensation trails, are the line-shaped clouds that emerge from a plane’s engine exhaust. They are the worst of the non-carbon consequences. The majority of contrails are caused by a limited number of planes. This is due to the fact that contrails only form in narrow atmospheric bands where the weather is sufficiently cold and humid.
Avoiding those zones might make a major impact in reducing non-carbon emissions from aircraft. According to a study that modeled Japan’s airspace, changing a small number of flight paths to avoid certain locations might reduce contrail impacts on the environment by 59%. The elevation difference between these places might be as minor as 2,000 feet. While flying a plane higher or lower might degrade efficiency and increase jet fuel consumption, the study revealed that minimizing contrails would still balance any increased carbon emissions.
Inventing Fuel Alternatives
Commercial jets utilize kerosene-based propellants, but firms are experimenting with converting biomasses into jet fuels, such as vegetable oil and even used diapers. According to some studies, these biofuels might reduce carbon emissions from airplanes by up to 60%. However, not all biofuels are made equal.
Because of the planet’s rising population, which requires crops for calories, those that might be converted into food are unsustainable. Used cooking oil and pulp from agriculture or logging are both costly and not generated in high enough quantities to make a significant impact. However, this does not exclude out the development of other environmentally friendly aircraft fuels.
- Going Hybrid
Electric vehicles aren’t the only mode of transportation being developed: according to one estimate, there are over a hundred electric-powered aircraft projects in the works. From powered gliders to light aircraft and small electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) personal air vehicles and air taxis, the potential of electric aircraft has grown, and the concept is now being actively considered for larger regional aircraft powered by electric engines or multiple transmission and distribution systems.
In recent years, aircraft propulsion systems have undergone a revolution, with hybrid-electric and battery-powered electric aircraft increasingly proving to be a cost-effective alternative to traditional platforms — at least for smaller, short-range aircraft. Such airplanes are the ultimate solution to the problem of CO2 reduction since they emit no (or less) direct carbon emissions (in the case of hybrid-electric propulsion) (although the generation of the electricity to charge the batteries may do so).
In order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the aviation sector is now pursuing four levers: increasing energy efficiency, utilizing sustainable aviation fuel, developing alternative technologies, and employing carbon offsets. Because jet fuel combustion is responsible for the great majority of airline scope 1 emissions, efforts are being concentrated on upgrading fleets to the most fuel-efficient new technology aircraft and transitioning to the complete usage of sustainable aviation fuel.