A European target for reducing the climate impact of aviation states that aircraft that are put into operation after 2020 should have 50 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions compared to those that put into operation in 2000. Of this improvement, more efficient air traffic management systems are estimated to be able to contribute about 10 percentage points. Newer, more efficient systems, which can facilitate better flying in rain and fog, are an important measure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and achieve the goal. When aircraft can fly more directly towards their destination and avoid interrupted landing attempts due to bad weather, unnecessary emissions can be reduced.
Components with the right properties have been missing
A precondition for this is to upgrade the air traffic control systems with better radars on the aircraft themselves. These radars operate in the assigned frequency range 93–100 gigahertz. The problem is, radar components in this frequency range, with properties that allow large-scale use and are sufficiently cost-effective, are not currently commercially viable. But now, after almost three years of research, the Chalmers-led, European project is the first in the world to demonstrate precisely this type of component.
“Aviation has a major climate impact and so it is important to work with as many measures in parallel to reduce this impact. It feels great to be able to contribute to more sustainable flying in the future,” says Dan Kuylenstierna, Associate Professor at the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers and leader of the project.
The challenges of generating high transmitter power at high frequency
The radar components developed through the project are similar to those in self-driving cars. But to be able to be used in aircraft, especially in rain and bad weather, the transmitter power needs to increase significantly. This in itself is a difficult task, as the frequencies used in aviation are higher than in cars – and the higher the frequency, the more difficult it becomes to generate high transmitter power. To solve this problem, the research project developed new circuits and encapsulation methods. This means that the technology can now be integrated into the new aircraft's air traffic control system in a way that is both cost-effective and reliable.
The scientific results of the research project have been published at international conferences:
The project has also led to a patent application.