There is a new collaboration between companies like Google, American Airlines, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy in addressing the environmental impact of aviation. Contrails have been a concern due to their contribution to global warming. Using satellite imagery and AI to predict and avoid contrails seems like a promising approach to mitigating their effects.
Contrails are created when moisture condenses around particles discharged by airplanes, which may lead to heat entrapment in the atmosphere. This accounts for about 35% of aviation’s influence on global warming.
The project aims to inform pilots about where contrails will likely form, allowing them to adjust their flight paths and altitudes to minimize their impact. This could potentially have a positive effect on reducing the aviation industry’s carbon footprint.
American Airlines conducted test flights using contrail forecast maps developed by Google and Breakthrough Energy, significantly reducing contrail formation. Over six months, pilots completed 70 test flights and found the maps easy and intuitive. While there was a slight increase in fuel consumption due to adjusting flight paths, the overall impact on the airline’sairline’s fuel consumption and emissions seems manageable.
It’s important to note that the research is still in its early stages, and further peer-reviewed studies and testing are necessary to determine the feasibility of implementing this approach on a larger scale.
However, the initial results are promising and suggest that such efforts could play a role in the aviation industry’s efforts to combat climate change while cleaner technologies are being developed. Test flights avoiding contrails cut them by 54%, helping climate change until greener planes are ready. More fuel (2%) was used, but for all flights, just 0.3% extra, costing $5 to $25 for a ton of carbon dioxide emissions saved.