Green tech to fuel future of air travel

Expert speaks about aircraft design, fuels and airport tech
Aviation is embracing a range of new technologies, from improving passenger flows at airports to alternative fuel sources, an IATA official tells airport operator Finavia in an interview.
The International Air Transport Association expects air passenger numbers to almost double by 2030, from just under 4 billion in 2015 to over 7 billion. Yet there is intense pressure to cut the environmental impact of flying.
Paul Steele, senior vice president for external relations and corporate secretary of IATA, says that real-time tracking of baggage will help passengers get through airports as quickly as possible.
“The goal of IATA’s Fast Travel Program is to offer 80% of global passengers a complete range of relevant self-service options throughout their journey by 2020,” he says. “These could include anything from being identified using facial recognition when entering the airport to real-time tracking of baggage.”
Improving infrastructure can shorten taxiing times and make sure planes don’t have to circle around airports waiting to land.
That would also minimise the environmental impact of increased air travel. IATA wants to improve fuel efficiency by an additional 16% by 2020 and has “already managed to disconnect the growth of emissions from the growth of aviation traffic”.
Steele adds: “The second target is carbon neutral growth, which means stabilising the growth of emissions at the 2020 level. There’s real determination in the industry to push for environmentally friendly solutions. Last year, 191 states signed a landmark agreement that requires airlines to purchase carbon offset credits to cover those emissions in excess to the 2020 level that they haven’t been able to reduce.”
Alternative fuels are an obvious area of development, he says, for example: “We are already able to mix biofuel made from forestry waste with kerosene. Another program will involve using the sun’s power to break down materials to their molecules before they are reassembled into jet fuel — the aircraft would essentially be powered by the sun. And by 2050, we could well have battery-powered aircraft carrying up to 150 people on shorter routes.”
Other technologies that will affect flying include larger windows, electronically controlled shades and reduced inflight noise – features already on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB.
By 2035-40, planes may have a blended wing body shape familiar from the military, which would need an entirely new seating arrangement. Delta-shaped aircraft are far more fuel efficient than the current tube-and-wing planes.
Finavia / TTG Nordic

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