The "green" aircraft made by Finmeccanica takes off
ATR is the first European manufacturer to fly a prototype for the Clean Sky programme
A “green” aircraft for a cleaner sky: the first aircraft prototype with modifications related to the Clean Sky programme, the European programme whose aim is to look for solutions for more eco-friendly and more efficient aircraft, has taken off on July 8th, 2015. Behind this achievement there is ATR, the 50/50 joint venture of Finmeccanica - Alenia Aermacchi and Airbus Group, operating in the regional transport segment.
Many are the innovations tested on-board. The prototype is provided with a large panel in composite material on the upper fuselage part, that replaces the traditional aluminium component, with vibro-acoustic sensors and new-generation optical-fibre elements. This is therefore a lighter material allowing, through the aircraft’s weight reduction, a lower fuel consumption with greater noise absorption. Thus not only a “greener” aircraft but also more “intelligent”, capable to detect, thanks to a structure’s monitoring system, possible impacts undergone and pass the information to the maintenance terminals.
The test’s target has been to check the reactions of this material during flight and also to assess the actual benefits subsequent to its use in terms of consumption, reliability and noise absorption, in order to understand whether they are sufficient to counterbalance the higher cost as compared to aluminium.
After the first test phase, Finmeccanica - Alenia Aermacchi has planned to experiment other innovative systems, through a series of tests envisaged between the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 with the ATR prototype. The said tests will regard modifications on the aircraft’s electrical system, with the aim of optimising the energy distribution and prevent its dispersal, also thanks to the installation of more powerful generators which will allow operations on some aircraft’s systems, such as air conditioning, without taking away power from the engine.
Clean Sky: Finmeccanica’s investment for a sustainable future
With the term “Flightpath 2050” the European Union has established its own vision for the Aviation Sector, setting the priorities to be followed to develop the air navigation systems of the future. Its targets are very ambitious, also concerning environment protection and energy supply. For instance, in 2050 it is envisaged that the available technologies and procedures will allow a 75%-reduction of the CO2 emissions (carbon dioxide) per passenger per kilometer (50% by 2020) and 90% of NOx emissions (nitrogen oxides and their mixes). Perceived Noise emissions will be reduced by 65% and the airplanes will be designed and produced in a recyclable way.
The contribution for the achievement of the reduction target by 2020 of 50% of the CO2 emissions has been decided under these terms: 20-25% thanks to more efficient aircraft, 15-20% thanks to more efficient engines and 5-10% thanks to air traffic management.
Finmeccanica’s contribution to this European project consists in being involved, among others, in an important research programme in the Aviation Sector, Clean Sky, whose objectives are a direct issuing of Flightpath 2050.
The project gathers, as strategic partners, 86 organisations of 16 Countries, which put together companies, research centres and universities. Finmeccanica leads the “Green Regional Aircraft” platform whose aim is to achieve advanced technological solutions for a new-generation regional aircraft. In particular the activities focus on a more efficient aerodynamic configuration with weight reduction, thanks to the use of composite materials, or new low-density aluminium alloys, which lead to a decrease of fuel consumption (up to 10%), of noise and of polluting agents’ emission; also to be added to the above, savings coming from consumption and emissions deriving from the future propellers. In the helicopters sector Finmeccanica is co-leader of the “Green Rotorcraft” platform, that develops technologies to reduce the environmental impact of helicopters and tilt-rotors, using, as application and testing field, also the innovative AW609, the tilt-rotor for civil use developed by the company. The developed technologies focus on new more efficient and less noisy rotor blades models, on the reduction of aerodynamic endurance of the structure and on the integration of innovative electric systems meant to decrease the polluting emissions. Furthermore, as regards industrial processes (eco-design), for both platforms the Group is committed in reducing the environmental impact, with the study of new metals’ anti-corrosion processes (with no use of chromium) and of techniques for the recyclability of used materials.