In nature, the heron is a graceful bird that is highly adaptable to changing environmental conditions. In aviation, HERON is the designation of a new Airbus-led European project for fuel-efficient flight operations and a major step towards the decarbonisation of commercial aviation.


HERON is the acronym for “Highly Efficient gReen OperatioNs,” and the project’s goal is to demonstrate how aviation’s environmental footprint can be further reduced with innovative procedures that range from more efficient aircraft operations to optimised management of air traffic during flights. This programme is part of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Programme Joint Undertaking, which coordinates and concentrates all European Union research and development activities in air traffic management.

Joining Airbus in the three-year HERON programme are 25 partners across 10 countries, representing the full aviation ecosystem including airlines, airports, air traffic control agencies and service providers. 

HERON project to increase fuel efficiency in aviation takes flight


From ALBATROSS to HERON: Europe at the forefront of innovation

HERON is an expanded follow-on to the two-year SESAR programme known as ALBATROSS, which performed a series of gate-to-gate live trials across Europe for fuel-efficient flights. ALBATROSS brought together innovations such as optimised flight operations from climb-out to the descent for landing, followed by hybrid assistance for aircraft movements on the ground.

Airbus' hybrid taxiing solution to reduce aircraft fuel consumption

The Airbus-led SESAR_JU project called HERON is a major step forward in the decarbonisation of commercial aviation. It applies innovative procedures such as more efficient aircraft movements at airports and optimised air traffic management to reduce fuel consumption.


With HERON, the goal is to pursue the deployment of already-mature solutions as steps that contribute toward achieving the air transport industry’s objective of "net-zero carbon emissions by 2050," as set by IATA, ATAG and ICAO.

One focus of HERON is the management of fuel-efficient on-ground aircraft operations. This will include aircraft taxiing without use of engines for momentum and the optimisation of airplane movements at airports by avoiding unnecessary waiting times on taxiways and at parking stands. It will include the Green Apron Management demonstration, which uses sensors and artificial intelligence for more predictable and efficient aircraft handling during airport stopovers.

For airborne operations, one of the HERON work packages will improve air traffic control management of in-flight trajectories through enhanced network coordination. Another work package will see the implementation of smoother, more continuous descent profiles as aircraft near their destinations, which will involve flights into airports in Brussels, Istanbul, Warsaw, Calvi and Saint-Nazaire.

Airbus’ lead role in the HERON programme underscores the company’s broad commitment to applying innovation and using its resources to further reduce the impact of aviation on the environment.


The even larger-scale collaboration of HERON should accelerate the adoption of more energy-efficient flights across Europe.  





Airbus experts Mattia Nurisso and Thierry Harquin


aircraft operations

Aircraft operations