Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator Will Test Connectivity-Based CO2 Savings


Boeing is preparing to launch its latest ecoDemonstrator project. Using an Etihad 787-10 Dreamliner, the project aims to allow real-world testing of technologies designed to improve the sustainability of aviation. One element being tested is how CO2 emissions can be driven down through full inflight connectivity of the aircraft, allowing for more efficient routing and flight planning.ator

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One of the tests with the ecoDemonstrator will look at how connected aircraft cabin be better routed for fuel efficiency. Photo: Boeing

Routing efficiency to be tested on the ecoDemonstrator

The launch of Boeing’s new ecoDemonstrator program, in partnership with Etihad, is an exciting step on the road to sustainable aviation. Using the Boeing 787-10, new technologies can be tested in real-world situations, with a view to taking high performing tech forward into the industry.

While the full details of the tests being planned are yet to be revealed in full, we do know that the tests will focus on emissions and noise reduction. This includes looking at sustainable aviation fuel and methods of cabin sanitization, as well as ways to reduce the airframe noise.

However, there was one element of testing which stood out from a connected aircraft point of view. In the Boeing press release, the manufacturer said,

“…a flight will be conducted during which pilots, air traffic controllers and an airline’s operations center will simultaneously share digital information to optimize routing efficiency and enhance safety by reducing workload and radio frequency congestion.”

Those keenly following the development of the fully connected aircraft will be excited to hear this. The benefits of improved aircraft positioning and its impact on fuel efficiency have been widely touted by the connectivity sector for years. Now, it seems, we’re going to get some real-world examples of just how beneficial this could be.

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Better air traffic management could save vast amounts of CO2. Photo: Pxhere

Driving down CO2 with connected aircraft

Connected flight decks on aircraft can allow real-time positioning updates and much more effective air traffic management. This can significantly reduce CO2 emissions by eliminating inefficient routing and unnecessary stacking. Simple Flying spoke to Dominic Walters, Vice President at Inmarsat last year, who explained,

“One of the key benefits of operational connectivity is that it not only enables aircraft to fly slightly closer together, but it helps airlines optimize routes by flying more directly and cruise at optimum altitudes. This flight profile optimization reduces fuel burn and emissions and can dramatically impact the need for holding patterns.

“There’s a lot of fuel consumption involved in aircraft flying around busy hubs. Having more aircraft with connected flight decks enables much more effective and efficient routing. This means it actually has a carbon reduction benefit.”

It’s not just CO2 that can be mitigated either. Inmarsat’s research with the London School of Economics found that connectivity, specifically relating to operational efficiency, had the potential to save the industry $15 billion by 2035.

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The Single European Sky could see ATC operations centralized, reducing delays and lowering CO2 by 10%. Photo: Getty

However, the connectivity side of things is only one of the hurdles that need to be overcome in order to realize the full benefits of efficient routing. In Europe, for example, the maintenance of invisible country borders presents a logistical challenge to this type of data sharing and communication. Perhaps some positive results from the ecoDemonstrator tests will spur the realization of a Single European Sky.

Elsewhere in the world, there are other issues to deal with. However, if the benefits of a connected aircraft and smarter routing can be proven, perhaps it will give some impetus to removing these barriers to progress.

This article is brought to you by Simple Flying Connectivity, a new category on Simple Flying dedicated to inflight connectivity. Click here to read all of our inflight connectivity content.