The innovations making aviation greener, one flight at a time
4:52 AM EST, Wed November 23, 2022
Etihad's Greenliner program has tested new ways to reduce carbon emissions since 2019. By applying them to a single London to Abu Dhabi service in October 2021, the airline says it was able to reduce overall emissions by 72%.
As aviation attempts to decarbonize, a new generation of aircraft that does away with fossil fuels is emerging. Among them is solar-powered Skydweller, which is based off Solar Impulse 2, an aircraft that has set numerous flight records.
Skydweller Aero Inc.
Skydweller Aero aims to produce the world's first commercially viable "pseudo-satellite" -- a solar-powered airplane capable of staying in the sky for months at a time. Skydweller is pictured landing after its first flight, in December 2020. The men on bikes are there to stabilize the aircraft by catching the poles protruding from the wing, a necessary step because of its tremendous wingspan.
Skydweller Aero Inc.
In 2016, Solar Impulse 2 circumnavigated the Earth without using a drop of fuel. It's pictured here on July 26, 2016, before landing in Abu Dhabi to complete its 26,000-mile (42,000-kilometer) journey.
Airbus plans for three hydrogen-powered, zero-emission aircraft which can carry 100 to 200 passengers. It hopes to launch the first ZEROe aircraft in 2035.
On September 24 2020, ZeroAvia flew the world's largest hydrogen-powered aircraft at Cranfield Airport in England, showing the possibilities of hydrogen fuel for aviation.
While some are exploring hydrogen power, others are testing electric planes. Washington State-based Eviation Aircraft is behind the nine-passenger all-electric Alice aircraft, which produces no carbon emissions.
The aircraft, shown here as a rendering, has a range of 440 miles and is intended for feeder routes. It also comes in a cargo version; DHL Express has ordered 12 slated for service in 2024..
Alice's innovative interior won the "Cabin Concepts" category at the Crystal Cabin Award 2020.
Courtesy Crystal Cabin Award
In December 2019, Vancouver-based seaplane company Harbour Air made history with the first all-electric commercial aircraft flight. The de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver seaplane, which was first flown in 1947, was retrofitted with a 750 horsepower magni500 electric engine from magniX.
Don MacKinnon/AFP/Getty Images
MagniX made headlines again in June 2020 when AeroTEC's nine-seater eCaravan -- powered by the magni500 electric propulsion system -- became the largest all-electric commercial aircraft to fly.
On March 25 2022, an Airbus A380, the world's largest commercial passenger airliner, completed a test flight powered entirely by SAF -- sustainable aviation fuel -- composed mainly of cooking oil.
While energy sources are still evolving, UK-based Faradair Aerospace is developing a design to squeeze the maximum efficiency out of whichever fuel prevails.
Faradair's 18-passenger BEHA aircraft, made from lightweight composite and shown here in a rendering, can carry a five-ton payload and has a 1,150-mile range.