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Flying High: European Startups Take the Lead in Sustainable Aviation

The aviation industry is at a crossroads, facing pressure to reduce its impact on the environment while also continuing to grow. But instead of shying away from these challenges, a new generation of European startups (and large companies) is stepping up to create a more sustainable future for aviation. In this article, we will take a closer look at the innovative solutions these startups are offering, from electric aircraft to sustainable biofuels. Discover how Europe is leading the charge in sustainable aviation and what it means for the future of air travel.

Flying is now an obvious possibility, an ordinary way of moving along great distances. Whereas some time ago, taking a plane was a special event - and in any case not accessible to everyone, now taking a flight, just to spend a different and fun weekend has become highly common.

According to data released by IATA (International Air Transport Association), air travel has continuously increased over the years: in 2019 about 4 billion passengers a year were flying, and it is estimated that by 2036 this number will double. However, air traffic poses several environmental problems, related to the various types of pollution generated by aircrafts, including noise, air pollution, and emission of greenhouse gases. Aviation contributes 2% to total global greenhouse gas emissions, and the trend appears to be increasing. As a fact, if the global commercial aviation sector were a country, it would rank among the top 10 in the ranking of CO2-emitting countries. Specifically, it would occupy the sixth position, being exactly between Japan and Germany.

Why does the commercial air transport sector have such a tremendous effect on rising global temperatures?

Aircraft are fuelled by kerosene, a mixture derived almost entirely from fossil sources, and whose combustion, like any petroleum product, produces Co2. According to research by The Guardian in 2019, a round-trip flight from Rome to London emits 234 kg of Co2 per person, which is more than the average produced annually by a citizen of 17 African countries. It is also significant to think that 30 percent of these emissions will only dissolve in the atmosphere in 30 years, 50 percent in a few hundred years, and 20 percent will remain for thousands of years, going on to cause a systematic rise in global temperatures.

What could be the solution? Certainly not halting air traffic so much as focusing on green technologies that could reduce pollution. Single solutions will not be enough to solve the problem, but joint and organic action on several fronts.

What are airline companies doing about it?

Some aircraft manufacturers, such as European giant Airbus, are investing to replace their current fleet with hydrogen-powered planes so as to achieve a completely carbon-neutral impact. A plan, however, whose feasibility is to be considered only in the long term. The first prototype of the Airbus A380 has become the first flying laboratory to test flight with hydrogen engines, a promising new frontier of near-zero environmental impact travel. And it is scheduled to take off in the second half of 2026. Airbus is also focusing on the use of liquid hydrogen with its ZEROe project: "this international collaboration sends a clear message to our industry by committing to making zero-emission flight a reality," commented Sabine Klauke, Airbus' CTO.

Boeing, the big competitor, has a long-standing commitment to sustainability and has taken several actions to reduce its carbon footprint too. Some of the key initiatives undertaken include reducing emissions by exploring more efficient engines, lightweight materials, and alternative fuels and investing in sustainability research overall. The company is also working on the development of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft.

On the other hand, airlines such as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, have been investing since 2010 in the development of new alternative blends to kerosene to at least decrease Co2 production. The most promising plan is to use blends derived from recycling industrial and agricultural waste. Finally, all airlines are also trying to increase the technological efficiency of their aircraft to minimize fossil fuel consumption. So many signals have been given to seriously fight climate change, starting with the one from the European Commission which aims to achieve a carbon-neutral footprint by 2050. No environmental policy will ever leave aside the civil aviation sector whose carbon footprint, as we have seen, is among the most significant.


The Zero Impact Airplane by Faradair

British startup Faradair Aerospace Limited has developed a prototype for a hybrid-powered aircraft, meaning both electrically powered and using a nonpolluting biofuel. The goal is to start flights in 2026, but the real ambition is to reach a production of 300 planes by 2030.

Source: Faradair

EVTOL: Lilium, the silent and sustainable German jet

Lilium is a highly innovative jet designed to reduce both environmental pollution and noise pollution. It is unique in the vertical take-off and landing aircraft market and is enabling the eVTOL revolution. As for aesthetics, well, Lilium is not like the usual planes we see gliding through the clouds. In fact, it lacks a tail, as it is stabilized by a vector system and looks, rather, like a drone tailor-made for humans.


Pipistrel Aircraft's Commitment to Sustainable Aviation

Pipistrel Aircraft based in Slovenia, although no longer a startup, is a world leader in the design and production of electric aircraft. The company has been at the forefront of the electric aviation revolution, developing a range of electric aircraft for recreational and commercial use. Pipistrel's electric aircraft are designed to be highly efficient, with a low carbon footprint, making air travel more sustainable and accessible. The company is also actively involved in developing and testing new technologies for electric aviation, including advanced battery systems and electric motors. With its innovative solutions and commitment to sustainability, Pipistrel Aviation is helping to create a greener future for air travel.

Source: Pipistrel Aviation

Achieving the goal of sustainable aviation is no easy feat. It requires collaboration across different sectors and industries. By creating synergies and co-creating solutions, we can accelerate innovation and help bring about a more sustainable future.

At Trusted Corporation, we're all about helping our clients innovate in a sustainable way. We do this by laying the foundation for innovation and creating strategies that work. And we've got the resources to make it happen. With a huge network in Japan and Europe, we can tap into experts, technology, and resources to make our clients' sustainability goals a reality.

Visit our website or drop us a line at - we are happy to exchange ideas!


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