Honeywell: Helping Europe Lead the Next Aviation Revolution
Honeywell: Helping Europe Lead the Next Aviation Revolution
Notwithstanding the unprecedented position the aviation sector finds itself in as a result of the pandemic, the industry also faces three Herculean challenges. These are environmental sustainability, airspace optimization through digitisation, and the integration of new entrants like unmanned aerial vehicles and urban air taxis.
There are many factors and technologies which will play a part in reducing the impact of aviation on the environment, from more-electric aircraft and greener jet fuel to more efficient engines and data driven, actionable analytics.
An often-forgotten aspect, although it is one that can bring an immediate and direct impact, is flight path optimisation. It is estimated that smart Air Traffic Management measures could drive emissions reductions of up to 11% through the adoption of more efficient and optimized taxi and flight profiles.
SESAR – A Blueprint for Collaboration
As with everything in aviation however, true progress can only be made through collaboration. A fuel-efficient flight profile calculated by the flight management system is only as good as the communication and acceptance of that flight plan by air traffic control on the ground. The SESAR Joint Undertaking was established in 2009 to tackle that specific challenge head on.
Through its deep engagement in SESAR since its foundation, Honeywell, led by our advanced technology labs in the Czech Republic and France, has made key contributions to numerous projects designed to advance the cause of sustainable aviation.
Honeywell has taken a leading role in the development, trial and validation of solutions to address each of these challenges. Having looked at Honeywell’s involvement in urban air mobility and UAV operations in a previous blog, in this article I will be focusing on the interlinked challenges of sustainability and airspace optimization.
Sustainability. Aviation’s Green Revolution.
Launched in December 2019, the European Green Deal is designed to make the European Union’s economy sustainable and to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
In the EU in 2017, direct emissions from aviation accounted for 3.8% of total CO2 emissions, so aviation clearly needs to be an integral part of any Green Deal. And there has already been some progress.
Through the combined efforts of the industry, there has been an improvement in fuel efficiency over recent years. For instance, the amount of fuel burned per passenger dropped by 24% between 2005 and 2017.
However, these environmental benefits have been outpaced by a sustained growth in air traffic, with passengers in 2017 flying on average 60% further than in 2005.
Flight Trajectory Optimization – Aviation’s Holy Grail.
As an industry leader in the development of flight management systems and other navigational technologies, Honeywell is perfectly positioned to address the challenge of flight trajectory optimization. Key to this issue is traffic predictability, navigational precision, and accurate aircraft performance models.
The capability of Flight Management Systems to plan and fly efficient flight profiles has been around for over 30 years. However, with ever-increasing congestion of the available airspace, it has become more and more uncommon for the aircraft to be authorized to fly these profiles, especially when approaching dense terminal areas. The main issue is the uncertainty of the aircraft’s future position and the need for ATC procedures for traffic separation – safety has to come before efficiency.
In dense continental operations, like those in Europe, uncertainty over exactly where the aircraft will be, leads to inefficient airspace – and less efficient flights. There are many factors which influence the actual flight path versus the planned and optimal flight path. These include airline/pilot strategies, wind, aircraft performance models, the amount of fuel on board, weather conditions and other traffic in the vicinity.
Building air traffic management models based on the assumptions of uncertainties relating to a future position requires that ATC includes margins, or zones of uncertainty, around aircraft. This clearly leads to increased aircraft separation, reduced airspace efficiencies – and, therefore, increased fuel burn and emissions!
If aircraft were able to share their 4D trajectory with ATC through the FMS, then these corridors of uncertainty could be significantly reduced, freeing up airspace for aircraft to maneuver to achieve far more optimized and efficient flight profiles and routes.
The SESAR-funded ADSENSIO demonstration, which is currently underway and involves Honeywell, will demonstrate and validate the use of datalink communications between the aircraft and various ground-based stakeholders for trajectory-related exchanges.
Although uncertainty exists about the exact timeline for air traffic recovery in the short term, global forecasts are clear: tomorrow’s air traffic system will be increasingly congested and complex. This outlook raises vital questions about the aviation industry’s ability to tackle the complex and symbiotic challenges of airspace optimization and environmental footprint.
As a result, the contributions of industry leaders, like Honeywell, in ATM projects is becoming an increasingly important factor. The future is what we make it, hence Honeywell continues to engage in the SESAR partnership and lead the industry’s contribution to the next aviation revolution.
The Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project was launched in 2004 as the technical component of the Single European Sky programme. Its role was to define, develop and deploy the technologies needed to increase Air Traffic Management (ATM) performance and build an intelligent, green and cost-efficient air transport system for Europe.
The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) was subsequently established in 2007 as a public-private partnership responsible for the modernization of the European ATM infrastructure. Coordinating and concentrating all ATM relevant research and innovation efforts in the EU, the SESAR JU brings together multiple stakeholders: governmental, regulatory, industrial, technological and end-user.