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Efficient Flights—Greener Aviation

It’s now easier than ever to understand the environmental effects of aviation, thanks to the Aviation Environmental Design Tool (AEDT), developed by Volpe for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In concert with other models in the FAA tool suite, AEDT now provides unprecedented levels of analysis.

This multi-year, multi-million-dollar project provides decision makers robust insight into the interdependencies associated with aviation noise, emissions, and fuel burn. Comprehensive cost-benefit analysis software informs aviation environmental operational, strategic, and policy decisions.

The Challenge

For years, policymakers and researchers lacked dynamic, integrated tools to measure the environmental effects of their decisions on the more than 50,000 flights that pass through the national airspace every day. Developed over multiple decades, tools were static, distinct, and limited in either scope or capability. The limitations of these legacy tools are only magnified when considering the 30-million-plus global flights annually.

The Solution

Volpe leads the development of AEDT, the central component of a state-of-the-art tool suite to ensure aviation policy takes environmental impact interdependencies into account. The suite has three building blocks:

  1. The Aviation Environmental Design Tool (AEDT) models environmental effects from a single flight up to full-scale global consequences. AEDT offers substantial enhancements over legacy software by offering a breadth of evidence in one place. Data-driven results give researchers easy-to-grasp data and visualizations of environmental impacts. AEDT is the only element of the suite available to the public.
  2. The Environmental Design Space (EDS) provides performance, noise pollution, fuel burn, and emissions information for future and existing aircraft designs.  Through close collaboration with academic researchers, Volpe assists the FAA in the integration of EDS data and analyses supported by AEDT and the entire tool suite.
  3. The Aviation Environmental Portfolio Management Tool (APMT) applies economic, environmental, and valuation scenarios—based on information from AEDT and EDS—to produce transparent methodologies that intelligently inform decision makers.  Within this tool, APMT-Economics allows for forecasting the composition of the future aviation fleet based on economic and market factors, and APMT-Impacts provides an estimate of aviation induced environmental impacts that can be used for cost-benefit analyses.  

The Impact

The government uses the tool suite to help make the nation’s aviation infrastructure efficient and manageable. AEDT is central to understanding the environmental implications of FAA’s Next Generation Air Transport System (NextGen), which seeks to reduce flight delays, save fuel, reduce significant population noise exposure, and minimize CO2 emissions through a series of improvements in all aspects of aviation.

AEDT was instrumental in a 2012 study that found that FAA’s goal of 1 billion gallons of alternative fuel use by 2018 may be within reach. The FAA tool suite has the potential to extend to other transportation modes and serve as the basis for environmental assessment across the nation’s entire transportation enterprise.

Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013