Cleaning up the skies by developing a broad span of new green technologies is a massive, challenging, and fascinating opportunity for the aerospace industry. But that is the aim of the Clean Sky European joint technology initiative (JTI), which gets under way this year and is set to become one of the European industry’s largest projects ever.
A steady buildup of momentum toward the formation of Clean Sky—with a budget estimated at 1.6 billion, equally shared between the European Commission and the European aerospace industry—has seen it become firmly established, with a timescale from now to 2014.
Clean Sky formally was launched in Brussels in February. According to the secretariat, the public/private partnership will “speed up technological breakthrough developments and shorten the time to market for new solutions tested on full-scale demonstrators.”
Eurocopter was among the first of the founding member companies to voice its enthusiasm for the pan-European research program, the objective of which is to make air travel more sustainable by encouraging aeronautics manufacturers to develop and produce green products. The company was one of several organizations that signed a memorandum of understanding in late 2006 with the EC for the establishment of Clean Sky. Others included AgustaWestland, Airbus, Alenia Aerospace, Dassault Aviation, Liebherr Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Safran, and Thales.
But that grouping has now expanded to embrace the majority of the European aircraft industry, from small and medium-size enterprises to the major companies. The European research community will also play a major role in the initiative. Saab is among them.
“The project is of great strategic importance for the environment, the future of civil aviation, and of Saab’s position within the European aircraft industry. We plan an important role in Clean Sky,” said Åke Svensson, Saab CEO and Chairman of the Aerospace and Defense Industries Association of Europe. “We are confident that we can contribute in making air traffic more environmentally efficient.”
There are several sub-areas within the program’s main framework. Saab, working with Airbus, is to help develop a new wing configuration that is intended to be the basis for the next-generation wing for large civil aircraft.
But it is not just hardware that figures in Clean Sky. Svensson explained that Saab will also play a role in the development of new systems to make feasible the safe planning of more efficient and effective flight paths, facilitating more fuel-efficient operations. Other subsystems to be studied include de-icing, thermal management, and more electric-actuation technology.
Clean Sky’s aim is to demonstrate and validate the technology breakthroughs essential to achieve the goals set by ACARE (Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe) for 2020. These include a 50% cut in CO2 emissions via a major reduction in fuel consumption. Other aims are an 80% reduction in NOx emissions, 50% reduction in external noise, and the setting in place of a green product life cycle: design, manufacturing, maintenance, and disposal/recycling.
Six integrated technology demonstrator elements are intrinsic to Clean Sky.
• Smart fixed-wing aircraft to deliver active wing technologies and new aircraft configurations
• Green regional aircraft that achieve low weight via smart structures, together with low external noise and the integration of technology developed by other technology demonstrators including engines, energy management, and new systems architectures
• Green rotorcraft having innovative rotor blades and engine installation for noise reduction, lower airframe drag, integration of diesel engine technology, reduction of fuel consumption, and advanced electrical systems to replace hydraulic systems
• Sustainable and green engines with the build of five engine demonstrators to integrate technologies for low noise and lightweight, low-pressure systems, high efficiency, low NOx, and low-weight cores incorporating configurations including open rotors and intercoolers
• Systems for green operations, embracing all-electric aircraft equipment, systems and architectures, thermal management, capabilities for green flight paths, and improved ground operations
• Eco-design covering design plus the production and the dismantling or recycling of aircraft.
Current membership of Clean Sky involves 86 organizations in 16 countries, including 15 research centers and 17 universities.