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Celebrating Earth Day Every Day!

Earth day

By Peter Cabooter, Aireon VP of Customer Affairs

The aviation industry is recognizing and doing its part to reduce its collective impact on the environment. Industry groups, regulatory agencies and individual companies have all identified environmental initiatives as one of, if not the top, priority in 2022 and beyond.

According to ICAO, global aviation industry contributes about 2 percent of manmade CO2 emissions. But that number will increase as air traffic increases. Industry associations and companies have made pledges to reduce their overall environmental footprint in the coming years. Those initiatives can take many forms – from recycling and energy-efficient office spaces to alternative energy sources and more fuel-efficient engines and onboard systems.

For Aireon, our space-based ADS-B technology can play a significant role in these initiatives as well. Air traffic flow and management information allow operators to use more direct – and fuel-efficient – routes, which reduces fuel burn and harmful emissions into the environment.

In fact, according to a Purdue University study, “space-based ADS-B offers a near-term solution for the aviation industry to limit fuel emissions by improving operations and efficiencies in remote and oceanic airspace using more precise locating capabilities through ADS-B, enabling optimum altitudes, speeds and routes.”

More than 50 percent of the global airspace is using ADS-B data from Aireon to guide flights. NATS U.K. has been using space-based ADS-B data from Aireon since the data stream went live in 2019 and has been reaping a great deal of operational benefits across its airspace, particularly in the Northern Tracks.

A University of Reading study that looked at the potential benefits if flights took better advantage of the prevailing winds across the North Atlantic concluded that close to 200 kilometres worth of fuel could be saved per flight.

“Upgrading to more efficient aircraft or switching to biofuels or batteries could lower emissions significantly but will be costly and may take decades to achieve,” said Professor Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Reading and co-author of the new study.

NATS has said based on fuel price of $650 per tonne, NATS and ICAO estimates savings, after the cost of the Aireon data, of between $153 and $312 for a full North Atlantic flight. This represents a gross saving of between 406kg and 649kg of fuel, equivalent to around 1290kg to 2060kg of CO2 emissions per flight, or at least 1 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2030 based on current traffic forecasts.

NAV Canada, another ADS-B pioneer, says for its airspace flights that are cleared to a more efficient flight level average 470 kg in fuel savings per flight for a three-hour duration over the ocean. This translates to a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 1,480 kg of CO2 equivalent per flight.

Peter Cabooter is Aireon’s Vice President of Customer Affairs, leading Aireon’s program to support existing customers and develop new relationships with Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs). Peter, who has been with Aireon since 2018, has more than 20 years of experience in the aviation industry, with a strong knowledge-base and awareness of key issues that affect the aviation industry globally.