Airbus is taking the power of the wind from wing to sail as the plane builder plans to transform its chartered Atlantic-based transportation fleet, reducing annual air pollution by up to 75,000 tons by 2030.
To achieve the goal, the company reported that it has commissioned France-based Louis Dreyfus Armateurs to build and operate three vessels with giant, high-tech sails — modern versions of ancient shipcraft.
It’s a concept in the works at other large shippers, including Cargill, as part of an effort to use renewable wind energy to reduce air pollution from ocean haulers. While based on ancient sail concepts, the modern iterations leverage the latest tech to maximize aerodynamics. Other concepts include electric vessels and even huge kites.
At Airbus, the ships will use “large, rotating cylinders” that can move the haulers with help from the wind. The contraptions, while not looking like typical sails, generate lift, “propelling the ship forward,” according to Dreyfus.
The ships will also have two dual-fuel (dirty diesel and cleaner e-methanol) engines. And with help from software, the ships will navigate ocean conditions to best use the wind, all per Dreyfus. The vessels are anticipated to be sea-ready by 2026.
“The renewal of our marine fleet is a major step forward in reducing our environmental impact,” Airbus sustainability head Nicolas Chrétien said in a company press release.
The global aerospace and commercial aircraft designer and builder has U.S. headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, employing 134,000 people worldwide. The fleet being upgraded transports “in-production” craft between America and Europe, according to a report from SimpleFlying.
The shipments are part of a maritime industry that produces about 3% of human-caused air pollution, the European Commission notes. To help reduce the number of trips, the new ships will also have more room for wings, fuselages, and other plane parts, according to SimpleFlying.
As part of their cleaner vision, Airbus officials aim to cut pollution by up to 63% within the next 10 years. That’s compared to 2015 as a “baseline” year, “in line with … the Paris Agreement,” the company notes on its website.
“This demonstrates our determination to lead the way in decarbonising our sector by innovating not just in aviation, but across all our industrial operations,” Chrétien said in the Airbus press release.
Dreyfus’s president said his company is eager to work in support of Airbus’s low-pollution goals.
“We are proud to support our customers in their energy transition,” Edouard Louis-Dreyfus said in the Airbus report.
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