Eco Air Travel – 2013’s Most Exciting Developments
Flying has always been one of the most polluting and uneconomical forms of travel, mainly due to the massive amounts of fuel required and the subsequently huge emissions. But eco air travel has been progressing with some very promising developments which are set to make this year monumental in terms of sustainable aviation.
Private Air Charters
The private sector is becoming increasingly eco aware investing more time and money into improving the sustainability of their operations than ever before. Companies that provide private jet services come under heavy fire due to their lack of green credentials, however many air charter brands are investing money into the research and development of more fuel efficient aircrafts.
This is mainly due to the large amount of money that can be potentially saved if planes could fly on less fuel, but also the introduction of the ISO 14000 certification to indicate the level of environmental standards a company practices, has helped encourage more sustainable work methods. Many have also begun to measure their carbon offsets, which, in an industry where regulation remains vague, is an encouraging habit to have adopted.
The Solar Impulse Project
Last year The Solar Impulse Project proved that completely green flight is possible in our planet’s blue skies. In June the team conducted several successful intercontinental flights of their solar powered plane which can not only fly without fuel but it can also take off silently thanks to 4 electric motors and its colossal 208 ft wingspan.
The aircraft is a paradigm of sustainable engineering – made out of state-of-the-art lightweight materials and some of the most technically advanced solar panels, it flew from Switzerland to Morocco as well as from Switzerland to Spain. The Solar Impulse Project will continue developing their eco aircraft in 2013, with longer flight paths planned and the overall aim to make it a commercially feasible option in the future.
The NASA N+3 Programme
NASA’s N+3 programme is specifically set up to encourage the research and development of more environmentally friendly aircraft which will be able to make commercial transatlantic flights with passengers on board but consume significantly less fuel – up to 70%, and expend 75% less carbon emissions. The four major airline companies who have been awarded funding for the programme are MIT, Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation, and Boeing.
The latter company’s concept designs for their hybrid plane Sugar Volt, which stands for Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research, are as ambitious as they are exciting. The proposed aircraft’s technology has the potential to diminish fuel consumption by 75% and reduce the total energy used by 55% – two staggering statistics made possible by including a propulsion system that runs on an electric battery gas turbine. Hybrid electric propulsion technology can not only lessen emissions but also decrease the distance needed for takeoff. In 2013 the concept plans should transpire into the actual development of the plane itself.
Aviation has a long way to go before it becomes eco friendly but with the private sector embracing green standards and the financial backing of NASA, 2013 promises to be an important year in the progression towards making flight a more sustainable mode of transportation.
Zac Colbert is a freelance writer covering a range of technology-based and environmental topics. He’s keen to encourage companies to become more sustainable, from aircraft charter services to digital start-ups, he often writes on easy ways to make businesses more environmentally-friendly.
- Solar powered plane takes off for 24-hour flight
- Eco-friendly travel ideas
- Pursuing Alternative Forms of Energy
- Solar plane smashes records
- Two sides of renewable energy