How will aviation transition to a sustainable future? Following an engaging two days at the Sustainable Aviation Futures Congress we consider this transition and, of course, how optimization can help.
Last week Motulus attended, as guests of the Sustainable Aero Lab, the Sustainable Aviation Congress in Amsterdam. This was our first visit to this event, where we presented the opportunities that optimization can bring to green operations, and we are pleased to report it was a thought provoking, educational and fascinating two days.
We are all aware of the impact that aviation can have on carbon emissions; and certainly the more people and goods can move in more sustainable ways, or communicate more electronically, will help deliver a reduction in emissions. There is always a need for balance though. Imagine a world where there had never been flight. What would we have never seen? Or learnt? What opportunities for trade, education, art, creativity, cuisine, healthcare and sciences would we have had?
So, assuming some flight is necessary for the development of all our societies, how can we make aviation sustainable? Whilst not explicitly the message of the event, it was a clear takeaway for us. The developing ecosystem is complex. Not just in terms of technology but also regulation, funding, prioritization. The technologies are, relatively, immature and developing. Therefore the opportunities are in a sense unknown. What should you bet on? Or should there be many bets?
A principle theme was the ‘ready now’ technology – Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). It can be plugged into the existing infrastructure, can be mixed with conventional jet fuel and is produced, and used, today. There are of course challenges: it’s expensive, the environmental impact in its processing and production need consideration and there is, simply put, not enough of it around: one airline quoted that 0.8% of their total fuel consumption was SAF, but this was 10% of all world wide SAF used. SAF is also net zero (i.e. not tailpipe zero, SAF burns carbon to the atmosphere that was extracted from plants or generated from industrial or household waste). There are also different types of SAF (from HEFA to Fischer-Tropsch to e-Fuel); all with their merits which are best left for the experts to discuss.
Then there are of course a number of other routes to decarbonisation: hydrogen as a fuel, electric aircraft powered by batteries, improved aircraft design. These areas are all at different stages of development and also have significant opportunities and challenges. Again the experts are best placed to debate the different merits. One of the overwhelming takeaways from the conference was the level of passion, expertise and almost steely determination from the participants. No one thought they were on an easy path but there was real commitment (and intelligence) to get there.
Where do Motulus fit in? Optimization is, put simply, getting more out of what you have (or in reverse doing the same with less). Whichever path, or paths, aviation go down, one of the persistent opportunities will be to use optimization in production, manufacturing and airline operations. All of the different options in this complex ecosystem will need to execute their plan well to be effective: optimization delivers benefits quickly.
As optimization experts, Motulus have already demonstrated fuel burn savings of 0.4% to 1% in case studies using our Tail Assignment tool, but as enthusiasts for aviation’s transition to a sustainable future we are always looking out for opportunities to use our skills further. If you have an idea or array meetings as we hav that you think we could support on then please reach out at email@example.com, or visit www.motulus.aero for more information
The photo is courtesy of Geert de Jong (CheeseWorks) and provided by the Sustainable Aviation Futures Congress