Could airlines use behavioral economics to save fuel and slash emissions? After winning first place in the Etihad Sustainability Challenge at this year’s Dubai Air Show, software company Signol will work with the airline to develop individual targets for the carrier’s pilots. If the project is as successful as studies would suggest, it could save Etihad millions of dollars in fuel costs and significantly reduce CO2 emissions.
Fuel-saving software driven by data
When it comes to the sustainability work of the aviation industry, most coverage focuses on decarbonization heavy hitters such as hydrogen and electric propulsion technology or sustainable aviation fuel. However, there are many moving parts to the net-zero puzzle – several that are available and waiting to be implemented right now.
During this year’s Dubai Air Show, startup hub VISTA hosted a sustainability challenge along with one of the UAE’s flag carriers, Etihad. First place was awarded to Signol, a startup company that uses behavioral economics and data science software to cut fuel waste and promote financial savings totaling millions of dollars.
“The VISTA challenge at the Dubai Airshow has given Etihad the opportunity to share the
sustainability-themed innovation challenge with global start-ups and innovators. In the
limited timeframe, Signol has been able to propose an innovative solution to the airline’s
challenges using data analytics,” stated Jorg Oppermann, Vice President Operations Division at Etihad.
Carbon saving equalling cost-cutting
Signol’s software uses data analysis to create personal feedback for pilots while providing targets and incentives to reduce fuel consumption based on their individual behavior. As the winner of the VISTA challenge, the company will now run a trial project with Etihad. This will analyze specific needs and meaningful targets not only for the airline as a whole but specifically for each pilot.
“The aviation industry is demanding environmental solutions that aren’t capital intensive and slow-moving. We’re delighted to be working with Etihad to deliver further evidence that carbon saving can not only be timely and cost-effective but cost-saving for airlines,” Daniel White, CEO and co-founder of Signol, said at the time of the announcement.
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Virgin Atlantic study
During an eight-month study with the UK’s Virgin Atlantic five years ago, researchers found that the method of using behavioral interventions was so efficient it outperformed every other carbon emission mitigation measure of which they were aware. The program saved Virgin Atlantic $6.1 million in fuel costs and cut CO2 emissions by 24k tons.
Researchers gathered data from 40,000 flights made by 335 captains. Fuel use was measured in three different stages – before take-off, during the flight, and after landing. Pilots then received information on their fuel use.
Combined with other messages and incentives, this led to changes in operational behavior from the pilots. The results from the study were authored by Greer Gosnell of the London School of Economics and Political Science along with two University of Chicago economists.
What do you make of Etihad’s new pilot project (pun intended)? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.