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Are we flying high with airfield sustainability?

The aviation industry is facing revolutionary change in pursuit of a net zero-emission reality. And in the UK the industry has strengthened its commitment by becoming the first national aviation body to pledge to net zero emissions by 2050 - but how far away are we from where we need to be?

10 September 2021 | 4 min read

UK

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Our Airfield Systems Associate, Massimo Denni, takes a look at Airfield Ground Lighting (AGL) - how far we've come and what else needs to be done to move towards a greener future.

Airfield Ground Lighting (AGL)

Should the aviation industry have replaced the high voltage operation sooner than it has?

It's easy to say this now, and yes, the industry would have liked to have replaced the high voltage network sooner. However, technology improvements take time to develop and implement, especially in a sector where there are strict international regulatory standards and conditions that need to be complied with. And aircraft / passenger safety is of paramount importance.

The introduction of LED AGL systems took many years to develop, approve and implement. Now these advancements in constant low voltage distribution systems have been made, it's up to the aviation industry to continue to develop, review and adopt this and other technologies where possible to help pave the way to net zero aviation.

 

Solar Airfield Ground Lighting (AGL)
Solar runway lighting

Is sustainability in the aviation industry where it should be?

There's definitely the awareness, and effort happening, for sustainability to become more prevalent in the industry, but more work needs to be done.

One of the huge opportunities we have is to improve technology and use sustainable and renewable systems such as:

  • Removing the use of equipment such as regulators and transformers and using a low voltage network to improve the energy efficiency and carbon emissions
  • Implementing solar power generators onto the main power supply to obtain free renewable electrical energy
  • Using solar power generators on airfield equipment and lighting systems
  • Improving AGL control systems so that AGL lights are not on 24/7
  • The increased use of electric and hydrogen vehicles including maintenance vehicles, buses, aircraft and baggage tugs

Integrating this technology ensures that the airfield AGL and aviation systems contribute towards the airport’s roadmap for decarbonisation.

It has also allowed airports to become accredited under the Airport Council International (ACI) Airport Carbon Accreditation scheme. To date, there are 173 airports in the UK and Europe (2) that are accredited, demonstrating the aviation industry is well advanced with solutions for decarbonisation.

 

How RPS can help

We have an experienced airfield infrastructure and AGL design team who can provide further information on the topics mentioned and how these can be implemented into an existing airfield or new airport development. Our team can also advise on a number of other aviation sustainability issues to achieve decarbonisation including the reduction in carbon within airport buildings.

 

References

(1) Sustainable Aviation – First Interim Decarbonisation Target, 22 June 2021

(2) airportcarbonacrreditation.org