NASA has gone to the moon and back, but now the agency is looking to protect Planet Earth. The astronauts and engineers at NASA are working together to help eliminate a major source of greenhouse gas: air travel. The global airline industry produces about 860 million tons of carbon dioxide and accounts for about four percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, NASA committed to an initiative that will green airlines, cut airplane fuel in half, and reduce carbon emissions by 75 percent.
Wing-folding Technology During Flight
NASA launched the Spanwise Adaptive Wing project or SAW, to develop wing-folding technology that can adapt to conditions throughout flight. These foldable wings can change angles during flight so that pilots can take advantage of wind gusts to reduce drag and use less fuel. The wings also have a 50 percent greater wingspan than current wing technology and weigh up to 80 percent less than traditional systems. NASA’s wing-folding technology is expected to reduce carbon emissions and the amount of fuel burned during flight by at least 50 percent over the average aircraft. Not only will this protect Planet Earth from the negative impact of planes, but it will also lead to a reduction in travel costs since airlines will no longer need to pay for as much jet fuel per flight.
The X-57 Maxwell Electric Plane
On July 23rd, 2018, NASA showcased its X-57 Plane at the AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 in Wisconsin. This plane is the world’s first all-electric aircraft and uses the versatility and efficiency of electric propulsion to create a cruise-optimized environment that is 500 percent more efficient than conventional planes. The technology also relocates cruise motors from an internal position to the tips of the aircraft wings. This recovers energy that was previously wasted and decreases the amount of fuel needed in flight. NASA has already trained pilots on how to use the new flight maneuvers and expects to have the plane flying throughout the skies in 2019.
Technologies to Reduce Taxi Time
Planes aren’t only burning fuel while they’re in the air. They’re also using fuel during taxiing to the runway, pushing off the gate, and taking off. Therefore, NASA is working with Charlotte Douglas International Airport to create a program that streamlines the arrival and departure process of aircrafts to increase efficiency and reduce fuel use. Currently, the network of airline employees needed to manage flights shares information by calling each other. NASA’s software, known as Airspace Technology Demonstration-2, or ATD-2, eliminates the reliance on a phone call and instead instantly shares information on computer monitors located at the Center, TRACON, FAA tower, and ramp tower. It has predictability capabilities that allow for pre-departure planning and efficient operations that can reduce the amount of time passengers are sitting on the runway. NASA expects that the technology will greatly improve jet fuel efficiency and save the airline industry $255 billion over the next 25 years.
Current air travel is causing irreversible damage to Planet Earth. However, with NASA’s initiatives and advanced technology, people can travel the world without hurting it.
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