Greener aviation: will they help save the planet or are they just pretty concepts?

Putting aside the effect of the pandemic and the decrease in flights, air travel has been one of the biggest and fastest-growing industries. Its popularity and constant use has made it one of the most significant contributors to carbon emissions. Almost 2.4% of global CO2 emissions are thought to come from aviation. The aviation industry as a whole is responsible for 5% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Source: Environmental Defense Fund

However, as we continuously embark on new technology, newly designed planes give us the leverage that we need to make the industry greener. Ulitmately, this helps us use air travel guilt-free.

What is green aviation?

Many aircraft companies, airlines and airports are collaborating. They are taking essential steps to ensure the industry can evolve into a more eco-friendly industry. An emphasis on green aviation which is the act of improving aircraft efficiency, according to NASA, will help with a range of polluting. Not just fuel but also noise pollution and greenhouse gas pollution. Together, the aim is to lower carbon emissions.

The green future of aviation and planes

Airbus is believed to be working on a new concept plane. The concept place features a blended-wing design which makes it look futuristic. Airbus has named the aircraft Maveric and believes it has great potential to be scaled up to the size of a regular passenger aircraft once they have completed exploring and perfecting its configuration.

The blended wing design featured on the Maveric helps shift the weight of the main body of an aircraft, which is usually dead weight. In traditional aircraft, the wings need to be much more significant to help carry this dead weight. More weight means more fuel and more emissions. If Airbus can develop a method that reduces weight and better wings that help carry the weight, less fuel consumption will be needed.

Blended-wing designs the entire airframe, as its one piece, provides lift. This design will help make future planes lighter and smaller while carrying the same weight. Maveric is just one of many different concepts Airbus is trialling. 

The industry has a goal to cut it’s aviation emissions in half by 2050. These new models with new technologies and design will help the industry meet its target. Besides looking at new designs, many aviation companies such as Airbus and Boeing are focusing on improving fuel consumption in aircraft. Flights that have improved fuel consumption means they can travel a longer distance per gallon of fuel. 

The industry’s investment is also showing evidence of research and development on electric aircraft. Electric vehicles have taken precedence in the past few years to move towards electric vehicles (EVs). The hybrid technology found in EV could help develop new planes to work in a similar way; part electric and part fuel. 

Strategic targets for governments 

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation is a plan that has been set by The United Nations. A total of 81 contries have joined the pledge to put a cap on carbon emissions. This is possible by purchasing carbon offsets which will help compensate for carbon emissions produced by reducing emissions elsewhere. 

Source: Our World in Data

Huge amounts of collaborative efforts will need to take place to help meet targets and set new boundaries for the aviation industry, as many countries have their own airlines. They have to figure out a route path that will help aviation increase over the decade without increasing emissions. 

As flying becomes more popular and more accessible, and due to the pandemic keeping lockdown in their countries as borders close, a rush to get on planes might be experienced once things return to a new normal.

There are also concerns that swamp in travelling via planes could restrict technology improvements. The fact that many will choose air travel as a way of travelling after the pandemic, companies may not have the time to be able to implement new technology to help lower emissions. As the total amount of air travel grows year on year by roughly 2.6%, emissions will continue to rise. 

Developing countries such as China and India who are producing more education individuals moving from lower class systems to higher class systems mean they are now equipped with disposable incomes that will lead to an increase in flying.