Eco-Friendly Aerospace Revolution: Electric Aircraft Ready for Trials to Reduce Carbon Emissions
Pathfinder 1 from LTA Research (photo: doc. LTA Research)

JAKARTA - In the face of the global warming crisis that is triggering natural disasters and animal extinction, as well as major efforts to switch to green energy, air flights may find a solution in a more environmentally friendly future. A recent article from Popular Mechanics shines a spotlight on the rise of electric aircraft as a promising alternative in efforts to reduce the carbon emissions produced by jet aircraft.

Scientists, governments, engineers, activists and earth lovers are competing to find ways to abandon fossil fuels in favor of green energy. Some obvious steps, such as replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors (EVs) and retiring CO2-polluting power plants by adopting wind, solar and nuclear energy, are already wise. However, there is a major challenge that needs to be overcome: commercial jet airliners are notorious for spewing carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere—all bad oxides.

In facing these challenges, airplanes—lighter-than-air airships—reemerged as a major focus in the world of aviation. The article highlights several companies that are developing electric airships, such as LTA Research in California, Flying Whales in France and Canada, and Hybrid Air Vehicle in the UK. Financial support from figures such as Sergey Brin, founder of Google, and major investment from the French government means that many believe that airships have a bright future.

The aircraft being developed today is very different from its historical version. Modern materials such as Kevlar, carbon fiber, ripstop nylon, and hydrogen fuel cells are part of their design. LTA Research's Pathfinder 1,  considered the Rolls-Royce of a new generation of aircraft, uses lidar technology to measure helium volume in real-time and optimize thrust with advanced materials.

The main role expected of this aircraft is as a cargo carrier, not as a means of passenger transportation. Although not as fast as jet planes, these planes can make a big contribution to reducing global carbon emissions, especially for shipping cargo across oceans. An interesting vision emerged with the concept of a solar-powered aircraft that could reduce cargo transportation emissions by up to one percent compared to conventional aircraft.

While technological and political challenges still lie ahead, major investments from billionaires and support from governments, including through US President Joe Biden's climate bill, signal a shift in positive momentum in the industry. Whether or not airplanes will be part of the United States' solution to decarbonizing aviation remains a big question that needs to be answered.

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