A consortium made up of researchers from the University of Malta’s Institute of Aerospace Technologies, QuAero and Malta Air Traffic Services is currently developing a system to reduce aircraft fuel consumption during climbs and descents within Maltese airspace.
In 2015, 34,283 aircraft movements were recorded at MIA. An A320/B737 class aircraft burnt, on average, some 1.8 tonnes of fuel during climb and 0.4 tonnes during descent in a 30-minute flight.
This generated 5.7 tonnes and 1.2 tonnes of greenhouse gases (CO2) during a climb and a descent respectively, besides producing other emissions such as NOx.
This resulted in an estimated total average emission of over 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum around the Maltese Islands due to inbound and outbound flights.
There are currently no available tools for air traffic controllers to support or be sensitive towards optimal climb and descent profiles. Meanwhile, aircraft systems utilise a cost index function that provided a rough balance between time of flight and fuel burnt but provided no objective means to flight crews by which to fly efficiently.
This research effort is being performed under the Clean Flight 2 project, which is funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology with a budget of €200,000. CF2 builds on the work carried out in the Clean Flight project (2011-2013), which focused on reviewing air traffic structure and demonstrating potential benefits through simulation. These potential benefits can be summarised as follows:
- for climbs, a total of 105kg and 330kg per flight can be saved in fuel and CO2 emissions respectively
- for descents, a total of 290kg and 914kg per flight can be saved in fuel and CO2 emissions respectively
The proposed system pivots around a novel software tool which will run on a computer in the ATC operations room.
The software tool enables air traffic controllers to generate the optimal climb or descent for a single aircraft while checking for any possible conflicts with other traffic.
Aircraft type and mass, weather conditions, route constraints and air traffic control constraints, are being taken into consideration in the proposed solution.
Support for multi-aircraft optimisation is also being developed as part of an MSc thesis of Andrew Spiteri, an engineering student at the University of Malta who is actively involved in the project.
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