By now it is a well-acknowledged fact that there is increased worldwide environmental awareness. Public concern about climate change and the impact of human activity on the environment and our planet’s resources and ecosystems is growing and can no longer be ignored. No sector of industry can afford to ignore this development and the air traffic sector is no exception. In particular the anti-flying movement, flight shaming, is one extreme highly mediatized manifestation of public concern about the impact of air traffic on the environment.
In recent years, the air traffic industry and in particular the ATM community has made considerable efforts to address this issue by leveraging existing technological advances to mitigate the environmental impact of aviation. As clearly stated in a resolution released by the European Parliament “Airspace is also part of the EU single market, and any fragmentation resulting from its inefficient use, as well as diverging national practices causes longer flight times, delays, extra fuel burn, and higher levels of CO2 emissions.”
The proposal for the future Airspace Architecture of the European airspace released on 5 March, 2019 which defines how Europe’s airspace architecture should look in the medium- to long-term (2025-2035), includes “high-level performance goals for safety, capacity, environmental impact and flight efficiency.”
Unsurprisingly, as a result of the unprecedented health crisis which has drastically reduced global air traffic, the public focus has shifted to more immediate concerns about how to best deal with the health crisis and its devastating impact on people’s lives and the global economy. However, the public’s environmental concerns are here to stay, and the air traffic industry must be prepared to answer these concerns by providing viable, sustainable solutions when air traffic does return to normal.
We spoke to Guillaume Ramonet, Coflight Program Director and one of the masterminds of Coflight Cloud Services, a new generation, interoperable e-FDP system compliant with Single European Sky regulations, to find out how CCS is working to improve the environmental footprint of aviation.
How does CCS meet the environmental objectives of SESAR and the Airspace Architecture Study?
Coflight Cloud Services improves trajectory prediction, which allows more flexible planning and enhanced free route allowing airlines to fly the most optimized route in terms of flight and fuel efficiency. This means more direct, shorter flights with reduced fuel burn and CO2 emissions.
We have already made considerable progress in this area and we are continuing this work with the deployment of cross-border free route thanks to the interoperability of IOP systems.
Similarly, data normalization and system interoperability also have an important impact on reducing infrastructures and DATA centers, which in turn reduces electricity consumption and logistics.
CCS is actively working with the Department of the Environment in order to continue to limit the environmental footprint of aviation for the sky of tomorrow.
Are there any new environmental benefits under development for the future?
Yes, we are currently focusing on achieving three main objectives.
First to improve the energy efficiency of ground infrastructures. Today the technical system is scattered. We are studying how we can use the technologies to reduce the number of centers, based on the experience that we have with the work underway in Switzerland.
Secondly we are working to optimize resources through virtualization. In other words, when traffic decreases like today, we need fewer servers because we need less computing capacity. With the new data center, the idea is in the future to be able to use exactly the right amount of resources that we need to achieve our objective at any given time. Hence the idea is to be able to adjust our calculation capacity to real needs.
Finally, we are currently studying the possibility of augmenting the share of renewable energy, in particular hydrogen, in the supply of energy to data centers. Today a radar station is already supplied by hydrogen. In particular, the DSNA has launched the SEPHER project (Secours Electrique par Pile à Hydrogène et Energies Renouvelables). Ultimately, this project aims to deploy, on all of DSNA’s isolated sites, electricity production solutions based on fuel cells powered by hydrogen produced by renewable energies (mainly photovoltaic solar energy).
How has COVID19 and the resulting huge decrease in air traffic impacted the CCS environmental strategy?
There are some indications that the reduction of traffic may be associated with improved air quality thanks to the reduction in some pollutants. If the link between reduced air traffic and improved air quality is confirmed, public concerns about the environmental impact of air traffic is likely to be heightened when air traffic begins to recover. At the same time, today people still want to travel easily. The ATM community must achieve a satisfactory balance between citizens’ desire to travel, and their desire for better air quality.
We must prepare now for a return to the pre-Covid levels of air traffic by continuing to invest in innovative technologies and solutions that can reduce the environmental footprint of aviation.