Aviation, the Environment and the Role of A-CDM

By Muhammad Humam
12th November, 2020

Nearly 915 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere by flights in 2019, as per Air Transport Action Group. Politico reports that if the carbon emission of industries was imagined as countries, aviation would be larger than Germany! Based on an article by Aviation Beyond Borders, these emissions account for about one-fiftieth of the world’s overall CO2 production per annum. There has been significant progress towards increasing efficiency, resulting in flights today burning nearly half the fuel quantity than in 1990. This has been achieved through innovation and improvement in technology, infrastructure and operations.


As discussed by Aviation Beyond Borders, in 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) created a fuel efficiency standard for all aircraft to be designed from 2020. In today’s day and age:

  1. Every upcoming plane generation operates at 10% or more fuel efficiency than the last one.
  2. The latest aircraft, including the Airbus A350, are extremely efficient in terms of fuel consumption (at around three liters for 100 kilometers per passenger). This means that these planes operate at the same level of fuel efficiency as that of a compact car.
  3. The latest aircraft are made out of extremely lightweight material such as carbon composites, designed using advanced processes such as additive layer manufacturing.
  4. Organizations like Zunum and Wright Electric are working towards the introduction of airplanes powered by electricity. With ongoing research, there is hope that these aircraft will be introduced in about 15 years.


  1. Many airports are now facilitating airlines by providing aircraft with ground power instead of them having to use power from the auxiliary power unit (APU) while on the ground, thus reducing fuel consumption, as per Aviation Beyond Borders.
  2. Airlines are working to reduce weight on flights by, for example, reducing any unnecessary weight increase due to food trolleys, passenger seats, water etc. This allows aircraft to consume lesser fuel during flights.
  3. Flights are being planned in a way that aligns them with wind patterns, resulting in increased fuel efficiency and faster travel.
  4. Airports are investing in infrastructure changes to reduce greenhouse gas emission including the usage of renewable energy to power their operations.

Perhaps the most important operational factor to consider for airports to become more efficient is the direction of aircraft-related decision making. Aircraft circling around the runway or waiting for take-off on the taxiway are examples of scenarios which, if avoided, can lead to significant fuel conservation. This is where Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) platforms come into play, facilitating transparent communication between airport stakeholders, thus reducing inefficiencies and allowing for informed decision making, as discussed by Aviation Beyond Borders.

A-CDM systems allow for the efficient use of airport resources. An example by Changi Airport Group discusses a scenario where a flight is expected to be delayed and the receiving airport is informed about this delay in time (through an A-CDM system). Any resources (involving baggage handling, cleaning, re-fueling etc.) reserved for that aircraft can be released to another flight for the time being, allowing for the reduction of idle time.

EMMA works based on the principles of A-CDM while also allowing for the predictability of operations using artificial intelligence (AI). For example, the platform allows controllers to maximize the use of runway(s) and manage flight arrival/departure more efficiently. By accurately predicting and communicating to air traffic control (ATC) the readiness of airplanes for landing/take-off, it helps ATC sequentially arrange the use of runway(s)/taxiway(s) by aircraft, thus reducing waiting/taxiing time and fuel consumption.

A-CDM, among other technological and operational improvements, is thus one of the most significant elements contributing towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emission within the aviation industry. A-CDM technology of the future, such as EMMA, is thus expected to find widespread utilization in aviation over the coming years.