Sustainability testbed tackles contrails

Cambridge-based tech firm Satavia is working with Etihad to explore how to avoid producing contrails.

Satavia uses artificial intelligence, data analytics and atmospheric and climate science to, it says, “make aviation smarter and greener”. Etihad’s Boeing 787 Greenliner, a testbed for sustainability improvements, was fitted with Satavia’s technology to operate Flight EY20 between the two hubs on October 23, 2021.

The aim was to identify areas in the atmosphere where harmful contrails were likely to form, enabling the route to be optimised to minimise contrail formation. Etihad said: “Based on the original and adjusted flight plan, the strategy avoided the production of approximately 64 tonnes of carbon dioxide [CO2] emissions, with a fuel penalty of only 100kg, or 0.48 tonnes CO2.”

The Greenliner tested various other emissions-reducing and sustainable technologies on the same flight, with other organisations involved in the trip including NATS, Eurocontrol, GE Aviation, Vitol, deSter, Sola The Netherlands, ButterflyCup, Agthia, Jubail Island Mangroves and dnata Catering.

Etihad explained the aircraft’s flight path and route trajectories were optimised pre-flight, and that it worked with passengers to reduce their luggage and “reward those that travelled light”.

On-board catering used lightweight cutlery, and sustainable crockery was returned to the manufacturer to be ground down to its raw material and remade. Passengers used plant-based water bottles and tote bags from upcycled aircraft materials, eliminating 80% of single use plastics, Etihad said.

Electric vehicles serviced the 787 when it arrived at Abu Dhabi. Where such vehicles were unavailable, Etihad purchased biodiesel to fuel equipment such as the airline’s passenger coach service between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.