Safran, powering greener aviation
Air traffic is set to double over the next fifteen years and the worldwide fleet should reach 45,000 aircraft by 2035. For the aerospace industry, which is required to combine economic performance and environmental protection, the challenge is enormous. Launched in 2008, the Clean Sky program takes up this challenge with a clear roadmap: boost the development of green technology for air transport. This constitutes the main driver for reaching the objectives which the aerospace sector has set itself in the run-up to 2020: reduce aircraft CO2 emissions per passenger/km by 50%, NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions by 80% and noise pollution by 50%. "Our Group is playing a crucial role in Clean Sky," explains Vincent Patoz, European Research & Technology Program Coordinator at Safran. "It is, to date, the most significant European research program for the aerospace sector. Safran actively participated in six Clean Sky research areas by coordinating two of the program's flagship demonstrators: the open rotor, an engine with counter-rotating propellers, and the Tech800 for helicopter engines. And let's not forget several major activities like an advanced version of green taxiing, as well as testing for the more electric aircraft carried out on our Copper Bird test cell. To ensure they all went smoothly, the Group relied on a great number of European partnerships with SMEs, research bodies and universities, among others."
Testing and production engineering on the horizon
The most ambitious Clean Sky demonstrator, the CROR ("contrarotative open rotor"), coordinated by Safran Aircraft Engines, aims to test and develop an open rotor type aircraft engine – comprising two large propellers that rotate in open air – with potential for a 30% reduction in fuel consumption compared to the CFM56 engines*. "The engine is in the integration phase and it will be tested on the new test cell in Istres in a few months' time," says Vincent Patoz. The second demonstrator, led by Safran Helicopter Engines, involves testing several pieces of advanced technology for a helicopter engine in the 1,000 HP range consuming 15 % less fuel compared to engines of the previous generation. "This project has progressed very quickly," points out Vincent Patoz. "The first test using the test cell took place in 2013. And one of the first applications is the Arrano which is currently undergoing production engineering, and which should enter into service in 2018 powering the Airbus Helicopter's H160."
Looking forward to Clean Sky 2
The European action plan is therefore advancing and the outlook for the environmental impact of the aerospace industry is looking up. "Looking at the projects under way, 90% of NOx emission reduction objectives and around 75% of objectives related to CO2 emissions will be reached in 2020," explains Vincent Patoz. It's good but it isn't quite good enough! All stakeholders remain committed to Clean Sky 2, which implements new research areas such as non-propulsive energy and engine architectures for the UHBR (ultra-high bypass ratio) engine. Safran will continue to act as a driving force for the program by taking an active part in its second phase, with several companies involved since its launch in 2014."
In parallel to the Clean Sky program, Safran is investing in other European projects intended to reduce the environmental foot print of the aerospace sector. "In 2016, Safran undertook to reduce soot formation through the SOPRANO program, coordinated by Safran Tech, and optimize propulsion systems with NIPSE, coordinated by Safran Nacelles," concludes Vincent Patoz.
* In partnership with GE through CFM International