Making Aviation Greener

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Guest article by SUG Client, SATAVIA

What if a single tech solution could cut aviation’s climate impact by up to 60%?

Cambridge-based data analytics company SATAVIA has identified a technological solution capable of reducing aviation’s climate footprint in the short term. By bringing together cutting-edge atmospheric science and high-performance computing, SATAVIA has developed the capability to forecast and prevent aircraft contrails, generating the potential to cut up to two-thirds of aviation’s climate impact at the push of a button.

Contrails are line-shaped clouds composed of ice crystals, which contribute to surface warming by reflecting heat downwards. Since aircraft fly globally, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, contrail formation is a chronic global challenge for aviation decarbonisation. Until recently, contrail prevention was difficult or impossible, but recent advances in science and technology – brought together in SATAVIA’s world-leading team – have enabled optimised flight planning for contrail prevention.

Uniquely in the climatetech space, contrail prevention is a software solution that can be implemented in the near-term via technical integration with day-to-day flight operations, making this approach a rare low-hanging fruit in efforts to decarbonise the aviation sector. SATAVIA is now putting contrail prevention into practice in collaboration with leading stakeholders in global aviation, starting with UAE-based Etihad Airways.

Each week, SATAVIA analyses flight plans for Etihad’s flight to identify scheduled flights that are likely to form contrails. SATAVIA then deploys its DECISIONX:NETZERO platform to optimise targeted flight plans for contrail prevention, minimising contrail-generated surface warming and maximising flight operation sustainability. This year alone, SATAVIA has prevented over 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) via contrail prevention.

In addition to enabling contrail prevention, SATAVIA’s atmospheric modelling now enables verification of contrail prevention and precise calculation of climate benefit achieved. By comparing original flight plans with contrail-optimised flight plans, SATAVIA can calculate achieved climate benefit in terms of CO2e. Achieved climate benefit can be recorded for conversion into future tradable carbon credits via leading voluntary carbon accreditation organisations, incentivising operators like Etihad to engage in contrail prevention and creating a new market in indirect aviation offsetting worth up to $18bn (CBI figures).

SATAVIA’s revolutionary approach to aviation decarbonisation has already generated significant interest within the industry and beyond, reflected by coverage in leading global media outlets (e.g. New Scientist, The Times, and Flight Global), numerous awards and labels including the prestigious Solar Impulse Foundation Efficient Solution label, and a recent nomination for the 2022 Earthshot Prize, the world’s leading environmental award scheme.

SATAVIA is now working with ScaleUp Group to lay the foundations for scaling across the industry over the next 1-2 years. Alongside building out key areas of SATAVIA’s innovative team, this process will involve collaboration with the full range of sector stakeholders – airlines, flight planning software providers, original equipment manufacturers, and air navigation service providers – to integrate SATAVIA’s unique contrail forecasting capability into existing operational arrangements. Additionally, SATAVIA is working directly with national legislators and international bodies (e.g. ICAO) to inform relevant regulation and incentivisation surrounding contrail prevention.

By targeting aviation’s indirect climate impacts alongside direct impacts associated with engine emissions, SATAVIA is helping to chart a route towards commercially sustainable green aviation – enabling global travel while simultaneously protecting the planet for future generations.

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