February 14th, 2022
Mr. Ron van Manen, Head of Strategic Development of the Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking and Dr. Jean-François Brouckaert, Head of Technology Office of the Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking, answer some key-questions about the brand-new Clean Aviation Partnership.
Clean Aviation, which was launched in November 2021, is a European public-private partnership developing innovative, cutting-edge technology to transform aviation towards a sustainable, climate-neutral future. Read more about the programme on our website: www.clean-aviation.eu.
According to the strategic rationale of the Clean Aviation JU, the European aviation sector has the power to lead the way toward a climate-neutral aviation system and set new global standards for safe, reliable, affordable, and clean air transport. What is the expected step-change that Clean Aviation will bring by 2030 towards a climate-neutral aviation in 2050?
Clean Aviation will focus its research through three main thrusts of skip-a-generation technologies: hybrid-electric and full electric concepts, ultra-efficient aircraft architectures, and hydrogen-powered aircraft. There's no single silver bullet - we need a combination of innovations from all those three pillars to reach climate-neutrality for aviation.
Hybrid-electric and full electric concepts will become very important for regional connections of up to 1000km. Air vehicles operating in this range (including regional aircraft with a capacity of up to 100 seats) will be the first to benefit from an air transport system that will adopt hybrid-electric propulsion technologies and associated complementary solutions for reducing the environmental footprint of aviation.
Today, approximately half of current air transport emissions are generated by the Short-Medium Range (SMR) commercial aircraft. The target is to achieve the most advanced ultra-efficient aircraft configuration with ultra-efficient aero-engines providing a -30% fuel burn reduction for the next aircraft entering into service by 2035: a huge market impact and a giant leap forward. This is indeed roughly twice what was seen in the past between two consecutive aircraft generations.
Hydrogen in particular will be a game-changer for aviation, but effective hydrogen deployment will require several new technologies and innovations to adapt to the specific needs of this energy carrier, such as liquid hydrogen storage and fuel distribution on board. Its introduction will be assessed primarily for the regional market but also for the SMR market by investigating new propulsion systems based on fuel cells and on direct combustion of hydrogen into advanced gas turbines.
The new aircraft developed as a result of Clean Aviation is likely to constitute 75% of the world's commercial airline fleet by 2050 and thus will have a major positive effect on aviation emissions and climate impact. In order to get to that figure by 2050, clean aircraft need to be entering the commercial fleet by no later than 2035.
There's no time to waste - rapid, revolutionary innovation is needed urgently if we are to reach that goal. Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch, thanks to the innovative technologies already developed as part of the Clean Sky programmes.
The academia sector, represented by the EASN Association, has been present from the very first day to the preparatory and shaping activities of Clean Aviation JU. What is the expected role of European Universities in implementing the work programme of Clean Aviation?
We expect that European academia will play an important role in Clean Aviation, building on the substantial participation in the Clean Sky 2 programme. Our university partners - the next generation of young innovators - are a constant source of bright ideas and inspiration along the road to clean aviation. We must channel their knowledge to help us develop revolutionary technologies while maintaining the highest safety standards, in order to meet Clean Aviation's ambitious environmental objectives.
We are pleased to say that several universities are already on board Clean Aviation as Founding and Associated Members, who will share their expertise throughout the programme's lifetime - and we hope to welcome many more in our Calls for Proposals, the first of which will be launched this spring.
The collaboration of universities with the European aeronautics industry, research centres and SMEs will be crucial to the success of Clean Aviation.
Clean Aviation is a programme focusing on the integration and demonstration of technologies. On the other side, there is a common understanding between all aviation stakeholders about the necessity of further exploring and maturing technologies, required for achieving the ambitious goals of the Clean Aviation JU. Exploration and maturation of technologies is the type of research preferred and typically performed by universities. How do you envision this can be achieved via the Clean Aviation JU Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda? What is the way and approach for ensuring that universities can play their key role in the implementation of the programme?
The new Clean Aviation partnership has been designed by EU Regulation to be "impact-driven" in the first place. Decarbonising aviation is a huge challenge - much larger than what we can do in isolation - so this will require collaboration across all European stakeholders in aviation, with no exception of universities and academia.
There is urgency to act and we need to make sure we do not lose the window of opportunity to achieve a disruptive change by 2035. This means, necessarily, a strong programmatic approach towards developing and demonstrating at high TRL the solutions that can go into new aircraft, which need to be under development before 2030 in order to be flying passengers by 2035, and in order to replace a large share of the global fleet [75%].
Universities are part of our membership and they are important. But their role will need to fit the partnership's overall programmatic approach. There will be a need to explore and mature new technologies, with a sharp focus on impact by 2030. Although we have introduced under Clean Sky 2 - and strongly supported - dedicated disruptive 'thematic' topics geared towards exploratory topics, those will need to be addressed within other programmes (i.e. under DG RTD) where a specific budget has been foreseen for this purpose.
The former Clean Sky Academy Working Group will be discontinued as its primary role of 'transferring research results to education' is now set into the Council Regulation as a specific task of the Scientific Advisory Body. The Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking is strongly supporting initiatives that promote aviation research in the European education systems, as well as the development of aeronautical skills and competences for aeronautical engineering curricula.