Those of you hoping for a resurrection of the 1980s, all-female heavy metal band, Flying Vision, from Tokyo, Japan, need to prepare for disappointment. Those of you on the side of sustainability and saving the planet, on the other hand, can rejoice. Flying Vision is the name of a joint initiative to “accelerate transition to sustainable aviation,” signed by five prominent players in the aviation industry on 11APR22.
And they are: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Royal Schiphol Group, Airbus, Royal NLR, and TU Delft. Their Flying Vision (also not to be confused with the French drone and robotic systems manufacturer of the same name, by the way…), is all about developing technologies to make the goal of climate-neutral flights by 2050 a reality.
Success requires everyone working together
“We believe that climate-neutral aviation is possible in 2050. But for this ambition to succeed, collaboration between academia, knowledge institutions, industry and government is crucial,” says Tim van der Hagen, Chair of the Executive Board of TU Delft. Flying Vision brings together an airline, an airport, an aircraft manufacturer, an aerospace research center, and the Netherlands’ oldest technical university (1842). Perhaps, then, to round off the circle of Flying Vision experts, the inclusion of a named government contact would be advisable to prevent political delays. “Together,” he is convinced, “we can develop the technological solutions for sustainable aviation. This collaboration with top players from the aviation sector can serve as a pressure cooker for innovations aimed at accelerating the transition to sustainable aviation,”
The group is bigger this year
Almost exactly a year ago, in FEB21, Royal NLR and TU Delft brought out a White Paper, titled “Towards a Sustainable Air Transport System”. It covers all aspects of pollution and the challenges on national and international levels, discusses research programs, and points to solutions in the shape of sustainable fuels and innovative aircraft designs, amongst other things.
The paper also warns of long lead times in implementing new products in aviation, because “technologies need to mature before they can be certified and applied in commercial applications. Currently, aircraft are designed to have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years and can take up to 15 years to develop from concept to entry into commercial service”. It advocates to speed up these lead times through digitalization and greater research efficiencies, and points out that “to have a substantial impact by 2050, new aircraft need to enter the market in the 2030’s. This means disruptive innovations need to be developed the coming years in order to be implemented in the next generation aircraft.”
It is essential to develop those technologies now!
The signing of an agreement, then, between key stakeholders in aviation, should now actively speed up progress in achieving fully climate-neutral aviation by 2050. The five partners have agreed to “develop an open and innovative ecosystem” by openly sharing their technological breakthroughs and new knowledge, and being open to admitting others wanting to contribute to creating more sustainable aviation.
“This holistic method of co-operation is still unique in the sector,” the press release maintains, as it points out that the parties “each represent a specific component of the aviation chain, [therefore] it will be possible to not only search for partial solutions but also for integrated solutions for the entire aviation sector.” It cites the transition to renewable energy sources as one impactful aspect that is a candidate for accelerated progress thanks to combined knowledge sharing and collaboration. Alongside the utilization of 100% renewable energy, other Flying Vision focus areas are climate-neutral logistic operations in the aviation sector, the implications of sustainable aviation for passengers, and other related matters.
Flying V by 2041
Of course, the development of new, highly energy-efficient aircraft types is another major target for the initiative. Here, headway is already being made. In DEC21, the initial results of a crude flight test of the “Flying V” (thus named for its unusual V-shape body) aircraft were disclosed. The Flying V is a joint project between TU Delft University, KLM, and Airbus, and could be going commercially airborne by 2041. “We want to make a big impact on reducing fuel consumption, and this aircraft is designed to be more energy-efficient,” Roelof Vos, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft University, explained. “We are at a plateau in terms of aviation efficiency and the Flying V is trying to break through this plateau. We have a long way to go but it’s a good starting point”.
Physical and future hotbeds
And finally, “encouraging entrepreneurship and training new talent are also important building blocks,” when it comes to Flying Vision’s proactive actions. Here, TU Delft has announced that it will be creating a physical work and meeting place on its campus, due to become available by the end of this year, where students, researchers, start-ups, and company R&D employees to meet and work together. Knowledge-sharing, talent fostering, and training are key, “so, the Flying Vision initiative will serve not only as a hotbed for start-ups and technological breakthroughs, but also for the new generation of aviation experts.”
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