Optimized Flight Routes for Climate-Friendly Air Transport

Last month, the new project “Greener Air Traffic Operations” (GreAT) held its launch event at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Institute of Flight Guidance in Braunschweig, Germany. This European-Chinese research and innovation project aims to reduce the impact of air transport on climate change.

The project focuses on new strategies aimed at greener flight routings. The group say these will be achieved through “innovative air traffic guidance concepts and optimized operations on airports, in the terminal control area and during cruising flight.” The concepts will consider various factors such as atmospheric conditions and real-time airspace constraints. An intense air-ground data exchange is one of the pillars of this approach. In contrast to previous optimization strategies, GreAT will not focus solely on efficiency and capacity. Instead its focal point is the reduction of the environmental impact of air transport, a crucial part of future air traffic management.

The GreAT project will be conducted in collaboration with seven European and six Chinese partners. Researchers will investigate optimization strategies for short-haul flights on the European side and long-haul flights on the Chinese side.

The partners will develop and evaluate more flexible airspace structures as well as more predictable guidance principles, supported by next-generation assistance systems. This will allow for a better compromise between the shortest routes and conflict-free traffic pre-planning. In addition to initial conceptual work, comprehensive validation activities are planned, which will make use of the simulation capabilities and expertise that are available in the project consortium. The knowledge gained during this work will be exchanged and published to further support research and development after the project has been completed.

The official project kick-off was attended by all the European members of the consortium. During the two-day meeting, the international partners planned and communicated the project activities and discussed the steps needed to achieve the milestones on time.

In addition to DLR, which is acting as project coordinator, the consortium consists of HungaroControl – Hungarian Air Navigation Services (Hungary), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM, Spain), L-UP (France), Royal Dutch Airlines (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij; KLM, Netherlands), the Italian Aerospace Research Centre (Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali; CIRA, Italy), and Pildo Labs (Spain) on the European side. On the Chinese side, the Chinese Aeronautical Radio Electronics Research Institute (CARERI), the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the Civil Aviation University of China (CAUC), the China Electronics Technology Avionics Company (CETCA), the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Engineering (NRIEE) and the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA) are participating in the project.

An advisory board will support the project. It consists of the air navigation service providers Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (Germany), Austro Control (Austria) and LFV (Sweden), together with the suppliers Harris-Orthogon GmbH and ATRiCS Advanced Traffic Solutions GmbH (both Germany), the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) and Lufthansa (Germany).