sustainable aviation


December 09, 2019
  • British Airways’ tech experts say the possibilities for 3D printing in aviation are limitless and share predictions of how 3D printers could transform the industry
  • In the future machines could routinely be used to create aircraft parts, reducing delays for customers
  • Initiative is part of airline’s flightpath to net zero carbon emissions by 2050

British Airways is exploring the possibility of using 3D printers to create aircraft parts in the future. These printers would be located at airports around the world to reduce delays for customers and emissions caused by transporting items.

The airline’s innovators predict that non-essential cabin parts will be first on the list to be generated, including pieces of tray tables, entertainment systems and toilets. While these components do not impact the safe operation of the flight, they can reduce the number of seats or toilets available for customers and cause delays as engineers wait for the parts to be flown to wherever the aircraft is.

Ricardo Vidal, Head of Innovation at British Airways, says this area of technology has never been more important to ensure sustainability and a seamless travel experience:  “We work with start-ups and innovation partners from around the world to explore and implement the very latest technologies, from artificial intelligence to speed up turnaround times to biometrics, helping us to deliver a seamless airport experience for customers. 3D printing is yet another advancement that will keep us at the forefront of airline innovation.”

3D printing is an essential step towards the sustainable future of aviation, as the printers can produce parts that, while as strong and durable as traditional components, weigh up to 55 per cent less. Every kilogram removed saves up to 25 tons of CO2 emissions during the lifespan of an aircraft.

British Airways’ exploration of 3D printing follows the airline’s BA2119: Flight of the Future programme in celebration of it’s centenary. It’s research into the future of the customer experience suggested that within the next decade, biological scanners gathering travellers’ physiological and nutritional needs could suggest food and drink to meet individual requirements and print these on board the aircraft. In addition, the research predicts that jet lag could become be a thing of the past, with 3D printers producing personalised health supplements.

British Airways’ top ten predictions for how 3D printing could be used by airline’s in the future:

1.                   Cutlery

2.                   Products for amenity kits, such as toothbrushes or combs

3.                   Tray tables

4.                   Aircraft windows

5.                   Inflight entertainment screens

6.                   Seats

7.                   Baggage containers

8.                   Circuit boards for electrical components

9.                   Flight deck switches

10.                 Aircraft shells

Source: British Airways

Drones: A Story of Revolution and Evolution

IASA: Nachhaltige Luftfahrt - Sustainable Aviation

Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator

Consumer Electronics Show

Las Vegas, NV, January 6, 2017

Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining us here today.  I hope you had a great holiday, and I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year.

For 50 years, the Consumer Electronics Show has been the place where technology meets everyday life. In the past, that wouldn’t be a place where you’d expect to meet someone from the FAA.

But, with its eager embrace of drone technology, CES has soared into the frontier of aviation. And that means this is exactly where we need to be.

We have a whole FAA team staffing a booth down in the drone marketplace. They’re available to answer questions and get any feedback that attendees have to offer. I encourage you all to stop by for a visit.

For me personally, this is my second straight year visiting CES. And I have to tell you, I find the array of products on display to be just as spectacular as I did a year ago. Maybe even more so.

There is cutting-edge innovation all around us: Artificial intelligence. Virtual reality. Wearables. Digital imaging. And, of course, drones.

Since my last visit here, the story of drones has continued to be a story of revolution and evolution.

Revolution in the technology and how it’s being used. And evolution in the way we, the FAA, are approaching integrating this new entrant into the National Airspace System.

Our challenge is to find the right balance where safety and innovation co-exist on relatively equal planes. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we have accomplished more toward this goal in the past year than we did in all previous years combined.

  • We worked with industry to establish the first set of comprehensive rules for flying small unmanned aircraft.
  • We established a Drone Advisory Committee and held our first annual unmanned aircraft symposium.
  • We’re researching everything from how to detect rogue drones to managing future drone traffic.

And we’re redesigning our website to make it more user-friendly for consumers.

With so many people channeling so much energy toward innovation, it’s hard to predict what the next great technological breakthrough in the drone field will be. But one thing is certain: our challenges are only going to get more complicated.

The sheer number of drones entering our airspace is a case in point. Just like last year, drones were one of the hottest gift items this past holiday season.

But unlike a lot of holiday gifts, this one is clearly not a fad.

Indeed, our latest aerospace forecast estimates that there could be as many as 7 million drones sold in the United States by 2020. That’s about 2 ½ times the population of the state of Nevada.

And the pace of change is breathtaking. It seems like someone is coming up with a new way to use drones every day.

Just this week, the city of Henderson and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems broke ground on a new drone testing range located near Nevada State College.

With both technology and innovation blazing ahead at warp speed, we know that as regulators, we have to lean forward. We have to approach our challenges with the same kind of creativity and open-mindedness that is fueling the drone revolution.

We also know that for us to be successful, we cannot dictate from above. We must work in close collaboration and partnership with the industry and those who fly unmanned aircraft for both recreation and commercial purposes.

So instead of telling the drone industry and drone operators what they can’t do, we’re helping them do what they want to do – while ensuring they operate safely.

That’s the approach we took with the small unmanned aircraft rule.

The rule, which took effect in August, enables people to fly drones for non-hobby purposes without getting specific authorization from the FAA – provided they operate within certain parameters.

As long as the operator earns a Remote Pilot Certificate, he or she can fly a registered drone weighing less than 55 pounds, during the daytime, up to 400 feet above ground level in uncontrolled airspace.

With the FAA’s permission, drone operators can fly in controlled airspace. And drone operators seeking to conduct expanded operations – at night time, over people, or beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight – can request a waiver.

In the four months since this rule went into effect, more than 30,000 people have started the Remote Pilot Application process. About 16,000 have taken the Remote Pilot Knowledge Exam, and almost 90 percent have passed. 

The next step in this evolution is to allow small unmanned aircraft to be flown over people under specific circumstances.

As many of you know, we’ve been working diligently on a proposed rule to allow just that, building on the foundation from the advisory rulemaking committee we convened last spring.

Allowing unmanned aircraft to fly over people raises safety questions because of the risk of injury to those underneath in the event of a failure.

It also raises security issues. As drone flights over people become more and more commonplace, imagine the challenge of a local police officer at a parade trying to determine which drones are properly there to photograph the festivities – and which may be operated by individuals with more sinister purposes.

The process of working with our interagency partners to reconcile these challenges is taking time. In addition, meetings conducted with industry stakeholders as part of the rulemaking process have raised a number of issues.

But you have my steadfast commitment to doing all I can to advance this effort. And we will be looking to our industry partners to develop more ingenious ways to ensure drones can fly over people without sacrificing safety or security.

And further down the road, we’re going to implement rules that will allow routine unmanned aircraft operations beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.

This need to involve all stakeholders in framing challenges and finding solutions drove a pair of important new initiatives last year.

One was the formation of the Drone Advisory Committee, or DAC for short. The other was our decision to hold an annual unmanned aircraft symposium.

We formed the DAC last summer. It’s chaired by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, and its members include representatives from the industry, government, labor and academia.

This allows us to look at drone use from every angle, while considering the different viewpoints and needs of this diverse community.

The group held its first meeting in September, and they’ve started work on helping us determine two important things:

  • What the highest-priority UAS operations are and how industry can gain access to the airspace to conduct these operations.
  • And identifying the roles and responsibilities of drone operators, manufacturers, and federal, state, and local officials related to drone use in populated areas.

The DAC’s next meeting will be held here in Nevada later this month – up north in Reno.

A number of our DAC members will also be participating in the second annual unmanned aircraft symposium in the Washington, DC, area in March. The symposium is really the ultimate exercise in democracy. Anyone who registers has the opportunity to talk face-to-face with federal regulators and industry representatives about regulations, research and integration initiatives.

These kinds of frank conversations are critical as we begin to tackle the bigger challenges that integration poses. And they’re helping to inform the work that the DAC undertakes.

During the upcoming symposium, these conversations will touch on the intersection of privacy and preemption. The importance of harmonizing global regulations so they’re the same if you’re flying in London or Long Island.

And they’ll also touch on the array of new safety and security risks associated with this pioneering form of aviation.

These risks include users who do not understand what it means to fly safely. People who don’t think they should be regulated and are determined to operate as they please. And actual bad actors, such as criminals and terrorists, who seek to use unmanned aircraft for malicious purposes.

Just as there’s a broad range of risks, so too is there a broad range of potential tools to address these risks.

One of our most important tools is education. And one of our most important education initiatives is the drone registry that we implemented just before Christmas 2015.

In the past year, more than 670,000 drone users have registered aircraft – including more than 37,000 during the last two weeks of December. All of these people have received our important safety messages that are part of the registration process.  

And our B4UFLY app alerts operators to airspace restrictions or requirements in effect in the areas where they want to fly.  

While education will always be a fundamental underpinning of safety, sometimes it is not enough.

For example, despite our education efforts, we’re seeing an increasing number of drone-sighting reports from pilots. We had about 1,800 in 2016, compared to about 1,200 the year before.

So we’re working closely with other government agencies and some of our Pathfinder Partners on a drone-detection security effort.

This involves testing technologies designed to detect unauthorized drone operations near airports and other critical infrastructure, or in unauthorized airspace.

We’ve evaluated some of these technologies around airports in New York, Atlantic City and Denver, and will be doing additional research at Dallas-Fort Worth later this year.

We will use the data and findings from these evaluations to draft recommendations for standards. These standards will help inform airport operators nationwide who are considering installing drone-detection systems.

One of the many things we have learned during the past few years is that when it comes to drones, the future can become the present in the blink of an eye. With this in mind, we have to figure out how to manage drone traffic in airspace that is shared with manned aircraft.

Toward that end, we’re working with NASA to develop a concept for an unmanned aircraft traffic management system – an effort called UTM.

At the unmanned aircraft test site here in Nevada, the University of Nevada-Reno is helping NASA conduct tests to support this effort.

This past October, they flew – and tracked – five drones at the same time beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight from Reno-Stead Airport. Each drone accomplished a separate simulated task, including looking for a lost hiker, covering a sporting event, monitoring wildlife and surveying environmental hazards.

Tests like these will help build the foundation for managing much greater amounts of drone traffic in the coming years.

In all of the work we’re doing, we are not forgetting about the needs of the individual consumer. We’re designing a common web portal that will act as one-stop-shop for all unmanned aircraft interactions with the FAA.

It will allow drone owners and operators to register their aircraft, apply for an airspace authorization or waiver, file an accident report and keep abreast of the latest FAA news and announcements about unmanned aircraft.

It will be designed for desktops, laptops, tablets and phones, and will serve as the platform for future communication with the FAA as unmanned aircraft rules and regulations evolve.

The progress that we have made during the past year would have seemed unimaginable not long ago.

It’s a great start, but it’s just the beginning.

We know there are many important issues yet to be addressed. And we know we can’t do it alone.

We will always need the input and expertise of all of our stakeholders, so we can craft the right kinds of policies and solutions to the challenges before us.

CES will continue to be a valuable forum, where we can give and take information, as we work our way down this path.

Thank you for joining us here today and being part of this journey.




Economics of Biofuels

IASA: Nachhaltige Luftfahrt - Sustainable Aviation

U. S. Policy Paper of the National Center for Environmental Economics NCEE


Washington, D.C.: Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels—fuels produced from renewable organic material—has the potential to reduce some undesirable aspects of fossil fuel production and use, including conventional and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollutant emissions, exhaustible resource depletion, and dependence on unstable foreign suppliers. Demand for biofuels could also increase farm income. On the other hand, because many biofuel feedstocks require land, water, and other resources, research suggests that biofuel production may give rise to several undesirable effects. Potential drawbacks include changes to land use patterns that may increase GHG emissions, pressure on water resources, air and water pollution, and increased food costs. Depending on the feedstock and production process and time horizon of the analysis, biofuels can emit even more GHGs than some fossil fuels on an energy-equivalent basis. Biofuels also tend to require subsidies and other market interventions to compete economically with fossil fuels, which creates deadweight losses in the economy.


  • First generation biofuels are made from sugar crops (sugarcane, sugarbeet), starch crops (corn, sorghum), oilseed crops (soybean, canola), and animal fats. Sugar and starch crops are converted through a fermentation process to form bioalcohols, including ethanol, butanol, and propanol. Oils and animal fats can be processed into biodiesel. Ethanol is the most widely used bioalcohol fuel. Most vehicles can use gasoline-ethanol blends containing up to 10 percent ethanol (by volume). Flexible fuel vehicles can use E85, a gasoline-ethanol blend containing up to 85 percent ethanol. There were more than 2300 E85 fueling stations located throughout the US in 2013 (US Department of Energy).
  • Second generation biofuels, or cellulosic biofuels, are made from cellulose, which is available from non-food crops and waste biomass such as corn stover, corncobs, straw, wood, and wood byproducts. Third generation biofuels use algae as a feedstock. Commercial cellulosic biofuel production began in the US in 2013, while algae biofuels are not yet produced commercially.

Potential Economic Benefits of Biofuel Production

Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels has the potential to generate a number of benefits. In contrast to fossil fuels, which are exhaustible resources, biofuels are produced from renewable feedstocks. Thus, their production and use could, in theory, be sustained indefinitely.

While the production of biofuels results in GHG emissions at several stages of the process, EPA’s (2010) analysis of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) projected that several types of biofuels could yield lower lifecycle GHG emissions than gasoline over a 30 year time horizon. Academic studies using other economic models have also found that biofuels can lead to reductions in lifecycle GHG emissions relative to conventional fuels (Hertel et al. 2010, Huang et al. 2013).

  • Second and third generation biofuels have significant potential to reduce GHG emissions relative to conventional fuels because feedstocks can be produced using marginal land. Moreover, in the case of waste biomass, no additional agricultural production is required, and indirect market-mediated GHG emissions can be minimal if the wastes have no other productive uses.

Biofuels can be produced domestically, which could lead to lower fossil fuel imports (Huang et al. 2013). If biofuel production and use reduces our consumption of imported fossil fuels, we may become less vulnerable to the adverse impacts of supply disruptions (US EPA 2010). Reducing our demand for petroleum could also reduce its price, generating economic benefits for American consumers, but also potentially increasing petroleum consumption abroad (Huang et al. 2013).

Biofuels may reduce some pollutant emissions. Ethanol, in particular, can ensure complete combustion, reducing carbon monoxide emissions (US EPA 2010).

It is important to note that biofuel production and consumption, in and of itself, will not reduce GHG or conventional pollutant emissions, lessen petroleum imports, or alleviate pressure on exhaustible resources. Biofuel production and use must coincide with reductions in the production and use of fossil fuels for these benefits to accrue. These benefits would be mitigated if biofuel emissions and resource demands augment, rather than displace, those of fossil fuels.

Potential Economic Disbenefits and Impacts of Biofuel Production

Biofuel feedstocks include many crops that would otherwise be used for human consumption directly, or indirectly as animal feed. Diverting these crops to biofuels may lead to more land area devoted to agriculture, increased use of polluting inputs, and higher food prices. Cellulosic feedstocks can also compete for resources (land, water, fertilizer, etc.) that could otherwise be devoted to food production. As a result, some research suggests that biofuel production may give rise to several undesirable developments.

Changes in land use patterns may increase GHG emissions by releasing terrestrial carbon stocks to the atmosphere (Searchinger et al. 2008). Biofuel feedstocks grown on land cleared from tropical forests, such as soybeans in the Amazon and oil palm in Southeast Asia, generate particularly high GHG emissions (Fargione et al. 2008). Even use of cellulosic feedstocks can spur higher crop prices that encourage the expansion of agriculture into undeveloped land, leading to GHG emissions and biodiversity losses (Melillo et al. 2009).

Biofuel production and processing practices can also release GHGs. Fertilizer application releases nitrous oxide (NOX), a potent greenhouse gas. Most biorefineries operate using fossil fuels. Some research suggests that GHG emissions resulting from biofuel production and use, including those from indirect land use change, may be higher than those generated by fossil fuels, depending on the time horizon of the analysis (Melillo et al. 2009, Mosnier et al. 2013).

Regarding non-GHG environmental impacts, research suggests that production of biofuel feedstocks, particularly food crops like corn and soy, could increase water pollution from nutrients, pesticides, and sediment (NRC 2011). Increases in irrigation and ethanol refining could deplete aquifers (NRC 2011). Air quality could also decline in some regions if the impact of biofuels on tailpipe emissions plus the additional emissions generated at biorefineries increases net conventional air pollution (NRC 2011).

Economic models show that biofuel use can result in higher crop prices, though the range of estimates in the literature is wide. For example, a 2013 study found projections for the effect of biofuels on corn prices in 2015 ranging from a 5 to a 53 percent increase (Zhang et al. 2013). The National Research Council’s (2011) report on the RFS included several studies finding a 20 to 40 percent increase in corn prices from biofuels during 2007 to 2009. An NCEE working paper found a 2 to 3 percent increase in long-run corn prices for each billion gallon increase in corn ethanol production on average across 19 studies (Condon et al. 2013). Higher crop prices lead to higher food prices, though impacts on retail food in the US are expected to be small (NRC 2011). Higher crop prices may lead to higher rates of malnutrition in developing countries (Rosegrant et al. 2008, Fischer et al. 2009).

U.S. Policy Approaches to Support Biofuel Production

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 used a variety of economic incentives, including grants, income tax credits, subsidies and loans to promote biofuel research and development. It established a Renewable Fuel Standard mandating the blending of 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels with gasoline annually by 2012.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) (PDF, 310 pp., 828K, About PDF) included similar economic incentives. EISA expanded the Renewable Fuel Standard to increase biofuel production to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Of the latter goal, 21 billion gallons must come from cellulosic biofuel or advanced biofuels derived from feedstocks other than cornstarch. To limit GHG emissions, the Act states that conventional renewable fuels (corn starch ethanol) are required to reduce life-cycle GHG emissions relative to life-cycle emissions from fossil fuels by at least 20 percent, biodiesel and advanced biofuels must reduce GHG emissions by 50 percent, and cellulosic biofuels must reduce emissions by 60 percent. EISA also provides cash awards, grants, subsidies, and loans for research and development, biorefineries that displace more than 80 percent of fossil fuels used to operate the refinery, and commercial applications of cellulosic biofuel.

In addition to EISA, numerous other policies have encouraged the production and use of biofuels in the US in recent decades. Tax credits currently support advanced biofuels, including cellulosic and biodiesel.


Condon, N., H. Klemick, and A .Wolverton. 2013. “Impacts of Ethanol Policy on Corn Prices: A Review and Meta-Analysis of Recent Evidence.” NCEE Working Paper 2013-05. (Accessed Sept. 12, 2013)

Hertel, T., A. Golub, A. Jones, M. O’Hare, R. Plevin, and D. Kammen. 2010. “Effects of US Maize Ethanol on Global Land Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Estimating Market-mediated Responses.” BioScience 60: 223–231.

Fargione, J., et al. 2008. “Land clearing and the biofuel carbon debt.” Science 319: 1235–1238.

Fischer, G., E. Hizsnyik, S. Prieler, M. Shah, and H. van Velthuizen. 2009. Biofuels and Food Security. OPEC Fund for International Development.

Huang, H., M. Khanna, H. Onal, and X. Chen. 2013. “Stacking low carbon policies on the renewable fuels standard: Economic and greenhouse gas implications.” Energy Policy 56 (May 2013): 5-15.

Melillo, J., J. Reilly, D. Kickligher, A. Gurgel, T. Cronin, S. Paltsev, B. Felzer, X. Wang, A. Sokolov, and C.A. Schlosser. 2009. “Indirect Emissions from Biofuels: How Important?” Science 326 (5958): 1397-1399.

Mosnier, A. P. Havlik, H. Valin, J. Baker, B. Murray, S. Feng, M. Obersteiner, B. McCarl, S. Rose, and U. Schneider. 2013. “The Net Global Effects of Alternative U.S. Biofuel Mandates: Fossil Fuel Displacement, Indirect Land Use Change, and the Role of Agricultural Productivity Growth.” Energy Policy 57 (June 2013): 602-614.

National Research Council. 2011. Committee on Economic and Environmental Impacts of Increasing Biofuels Production. Renewable Fuel Standard: Potential Economic and Environmental Effects of U.S. Biofuel Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Rosegrant, M.W, T. Zhu, S. Msangi, T. Sulser. 2008. “Global Scenarios for Biofuels. Impacts and Implications.” Review of Agricultural Economics, 30(3), 495-505.

Searchinger, T., et al. 2008. “Use of US croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change.” Science 319: 1238-1240.

US Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center. Ethanol Fueling Station Locations. (Accessed Sept. 10, 2013)

US Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS2) Regulatory Impact Analysis. (PDF) (Accessed Sept. 10, 2013).

Zhang, W., E. Yu, S. Rozelle, J. Yang, and S. Msangi. 2013. “The impact of biofuel growth on agriculture: Why is the range of estimates so wide?” Food Policy 38: 227–239.

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