AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD)
ASD is the European Aeronautics, Space, Defense and Security Industries with 16 major European companies and 24 national associations from 18 countries. In 2016, 843,500 people were employed by more than 3,000 companies generating a turnover of €220 billion. European Member States and ASD are working together, primarily through the Clean Sky 2 programme, to address aviation environmental challenges. An overview of some of these research projects is provided below.
1. Hybrid-Electric E-Fan X
The Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens ‘E-Fan X’ hybrid-electric technology demonstrator is anticipated to fly in 2020 following a comprehensive ground test campaign, provisionally on a BAe 146 flying testbed with one of the aircraft’s four gas turbine engines replaced by a two megawatt electric motor. These types of propulsion systems are among the most promising technologies for reducing aviation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
2. Sage2 Counter-Rotating Open Rotor (CROR)
In 2017, the Sage2 CROR successfully demonstrated new technologies including composite propeller blades, pitch control system, contra rotating reduction gearbox and aero acoustic optimization at the Safran test facility. This full scale demonstration confirmed the technical feasibility of a CROR, the expectation of significant fuel burn improvements (-30% vs year 2000) and the capability to satisfy the current ICAO Chapter 14 noise requirements.
3. Laminar wing demonstrator (BLADE)
The Airbus A340 laminar-flow Flight Lab test demonstrator aircraft has been engaged in successful testing to explore the wing’s characteristics in flight since 2017. The test aircraft is the first in the world to combine a transonic laminar wing profile with a true internal primary structure. BLADE has been running since 2008 with 20 key partners and 500 contributors from all over Europe. It is tasked with assessing the feasibility of introducing laminar flow wing technology that aims to reduce aircraft drag by 10% and CO2 emissions by up to 5%.
Rolls-Royce is developing a new civil aviation propulsion architecture that allows the fan and the turbine to be independently optimized by introduction of a power gearbox capable of operating at anything up to 100,000 HP to deliver greatly improved propulsive efficiency. This architecture will be proven through a programme of engine demonstrators that will culminate in a flying test bed. It will deliver 25% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to the first Trent engines and is being designed to meet potential noise and emissions stringency levels for aircraft entering service before 2030.
5. Additive 3D manufacturing
This new technique for building aerospace parts involves adding material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes. This enables complex components to be produced directly from computer-aided design information. It allows quicker and more flexible production, and reduces material waste compared to traditional approaches such as milling. It also results in much lighter parts which reduces aircraft weight and consequently fuel burn. 3D-printed parts are already flying on Airbus A320neo and A350 XWB test aircraft (e.g. cabin brackets, bleed pipes, combustor fuel nozzles on the CFM LEAP engine).
6. Electric green taxiing system
This system, jointly developed by Safran and Airbus, enables aircraft to pushback and taxi at airports without having to use their main engines or call upon airport towing services. Two of the main landing gear’s wheels are equipped with an electric motor powered by the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit. It improves both economic and operational efficiency, with up to 4% fuel savings on a short to medium range mission compared to current dual-engine taxi operation, plus reductions of other pollutants and noise. The on-going development of a hydrogen fuel cell to power the electric motor will further reduce the environmental impact of aircraft ground operations.
7. Circular economy
Advanced manufacturing capability is at the heart of the aerospace sector, which relies on essential skills to optimize resources and processes. European aviation has also been at the forefront of developing capabilities and processes for end-of-life aircraft dismantling and recycling of parts. TARMAC AEROSAVE, a jointly owned company of Airbus, Safran and Suez, has recycled over 135 aircraft since it was established in 2007. Today, 92% of the total weight of an aircraft is recycled.