04 March 2021
04. March 2021 Innovation

Airbus engineers in action for a more sustainable industry

From left to right: First Beluga Flight with Sustainable Aviation Fuels, CityAirbus first fully automatic flight, Angel Falls in Venezuela (Pléiades satellite image)

 

W


ith the celebration of the World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, Airbus is highlighting the contribution of engineers across the company for pioneering a more sustainable industry.

Sustainable aviation fuels to reduce CO2 emissions 

“As engineers in the aviation industry, I like to think that we are well placed to extend our influence far beyond ourselves, by minimising the footprint of our aircraft used by so many around the world” said Toby Wells, Sustainable Aviation Fuels project leader.

At the heart of the decarbonisation roadmap, Toby is working to make Airbus aircraft compatible with Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), so in future planes can fly without  fossil fuels, reducing the CO2 emissions life cycle significantly. “Sustainable fuels are a solution that can provide environmental benefits right now, even before more advanced technologies are ready to enter service. Existing aircraft are able to run on a SAF blend of up to 50% and we are currently exploring how to achieve flights on 100% SAF - a huge milestone on our journey !” said Toby.

The engineering challenges are numerous: “The fuel is also used as a coolant, a lubricant and as a hydraulic actuating fluid inside the engine. We need to be able to measure accurately how much fuel is on board the aircraft, and ensure it properly interacts with all materials used in the wing and systems. In addition, we have an objective to achieve full compatibility with minimal change on the aircraft. This is important as we are considering how to address aircraft which have already been delivered with retrofit solutions.”

 

In December 2019, Beluga ST is starting to use Sustainable Aviation Fuel in Hamburg. The sustainable fuel used for the Beluga fleet comes from used cooking oil

In December 2019, Beluga ST is starting to use Sustainable Aviation Fuel in Hamburg. The sustainable fuel used for the Beluga fleet comes from used cooking oil.

The earth observation technology, Starling, to reduce deforestation

Géraldine Florsch is helping to make the world a better place. The geomatics engineer works on Starling, an Airbus service that enables major companies to support against deforestation and helps Institutions’ to protect forests in the long term . “Many companies have pledged to put an end to deforestation. This is a huge ambition involving many suppliers on a vast area of land. Starling helps determine whether they are achieving their objectives” says Géraldine.

Starling uses a combination of satellite imagery and Artificial-Intelligence based on algorithms to provide unbiased monitoring of changes to forest cover. Satellite images are regularly acquired over the areas where palm oil is produced. A first land cover map is created and compared with the new satellite images. If a change is detected, the engineer is able to provide customers with a more in-depth analysis, to identify the reasons and better monitor the commitments of the supply chain.

“The satellites don’t lie. They tell us what they see with speed and precise geographical coordinates. Starling allows customers to improve reactivity and take more targeted actions. It makes me proud to work on engineering solutions which offer concrete and immediate results to protect forests in the long term, and encourages companies to improve their social and environmental performance.” she concludes.

 

 Angel Falls in Venezuela, a Pléiades satellite image.

Angel Falls in Venezuela, a Pléiades satellite image.

CityAirbus, Urban Air Mobility (UAM) connecting cities in a sustainable way

Another key focus for engineers at Airbus is the development of urban air mobility (UAM) systems that exert low environmental impact, offering maximum benefit to society. To this end, “Airbus isn’t merely embarking on the development of a UAM vehicle, but is on a quest to co-create an entirely new market - that sustainably integrates urban air mobility into the city context, addressing environmental and social concerns,” says Eric Ferreira da Silva, Head of UAM Engineering. 

On July 31, 2020, CityAirbus demonstrator performed its first fully automatic flight, from take-off through stabilisation in flight, and landing at Donauwörth, Germany.

CityAirbus first fully automatic flight.

To meet this challenge, Eric and his colleagues are working on CityAirbus, a four-seat and fully electric multicopter vehicle (e-VTOL: electric Vertical Take Off and Landing), which has already completed more than 100 rotations with great success.  “Fulfilling our ambition to create a full electric vehicle is a real challenge for engineers,” explains Eric. “We have had to figure out how to store electric energy efficiently with a large quantity of batteries, and how to integrate these into the overall aircraft design and device systems. The challenge is big but we are optimistic. The demonstrator approach we have chosen allows us to develop all the technologies requested by authorities for the next step : a certifiable aircraft.”

With the flight tests well under way, the teams are looking forward to achieving a real scale flight demonstration in cities by the middle of this decade. Stay tuned!

Wing of an airplane flying above the clouds

Find out more about Airbus’ commitment to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

World Food Day: Airbus’ H125 helps protect East African crops from desert locusts

en

Airbus’ integrated security strategy will take centre stage at Milipol Paris 2021

en

Seeking the most efficient flight - Episode 4 : sustainable taxiing on ground

en
Back to top