Boeing Uses NASA Software to Route Aircraft for Fuel-Efficiency

SEATTLE, Washington, October 26, 2010 (ENS) – Software developed by NASA and adopted by Boeing will soon enable fuel savings for commercial airlines and boost in-flight environmental efficiency.

To help its own planes and those of other airlines save fuel and increase efficiency, Boeing is introducing new subscription services based on NASA’s Ames Direct-To software.

The software automatically alerts an airline’s operations center and flight crew when a simple, more fuel-efficient path opens up along an airplane’s intended route.

Developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, the software automatically identifies flight route shortcuts that are wind-favorable and acceptable to air traffic controllers.

“We’re delighted that Boeing is using NASA technology for environmental benefit,” said Ames Center Director Pete Worden.

Boeing has incorporated the Direct-To technology into its subscription-based Direct Routes, part of the company’s InFlight Optimization Services.

A Boeing 767 in flight (Photo courtesy Boeing)

Initial Boeing projections show that Direct Routes can save more than 40,000 minutes of flight time per year for a medium-sized U.S. airline – the equivalent of operating hundreds of flights that use no fuel and produce no emissions.

When NASA demonstrated Direct-To’s potential to reduce fuel consumption in the airspace around Dallas-Fort Worth in 2001, “We estimated a potential combined savings of about 900 flying minutes per day for all aircraft in the demonstration airspace,” said David McNally, the project principal investigator at Ames.

Boeing’s InFlight Optimization Services are designed to be implemented within current air traffic and airline operating procedures using existing communication channels. No regulatory changes and little to no new equipment are needed, Boeing says.

“We are bringing to market easy-to-implement solutions to help our customers reach new levels of operational and environmental efficiency by reducing cost, fuel use and CO2 emissions,” said Sherry Carbary, vice president of Flight Services, Commercial Aviation Services with Boeing.

“As part of our commitment to offer lifecycle solutions to our customers, we are now providing real-time flight efficiency advisories,” she said.

To increase the likelihood of air traffic controller approval and to keep workload to a minimum, the advisories are pre-checked for traffic conflicts, wind conditions, established airspace constraints and other factors.

On the defense side of its business, Boeing is collaborating with the National Renewable Energy Lab on enhancing secure access to energy around the world for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Boeing and NREL jointly said today that potential areas of collaboration include: cybersecurity, energy management and storage, modeling and simulation, renewable energy technology, microgrid technology such as localized, small power generators and large systems-integration facilities.

“This agreement is a solid foundation for future endeavors between NREL and Boeing,” said Tim Noonan, vice president, Boeing Energy. “Boeing’s working partnership with NREL will define and deploy next-generation energy technology and systems for the DOD and the commercial sector.”

Noonan also serves as chair of the Smart Grid Working Group at the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Initiative, a collaboration between NREL and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“This collaboration recognizes the complementary capabilities that NREL and Boeing bring to developing secure, affordable and reliable energy,” said Dan Arvizu, NREL director and chief executive.

Boeing and NREL will jointly develop the technology at Boeing’s Energy Laboratory in St. Louis and at the Energy Systems Integration Facility that NREL is setting up at its home base in Golden, Colorado.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.