New research to drive innovation in aviation and address the risks of space-weather and new electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft

Future aviation will face an increased vulnerability to Space-Weather factors such as space radiation posing strong risks to avionics and even people onboard, especially in (sub)polar regions. An innovative EU co-founded research action has been launched to contribute to aviation innovation, despite new hazards in aviation such as electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft and new airport energy systems.

The European Union is among the leading institutions when counteracting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. After presenting the European Green Deal in 2019, the European Commission proposed a package of measures to increase its GHG emission reduction ambition for 2030 and decarbonising the EU’s economy from 40% to 55% by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Throughout the years, aviation has possessed this goal as its own. Policy actions and industry efforts have improved fuel efficiency, decreasing fuel consumption per passenger by 24% between 2005 and 2017. As the number of flights continues to increase, aviation has continued to innovate in order to lower its contribution to CO2 and non-CO2 emissions.

"Future aviation will face not only technological and ecological challenges but also an increased vulnerability to Space-Weather factors such as space radiation posing strong risks to avionics and even people onboard, especially in (sub)polar regions. The University of Oulu, together with FMI, will develop, in the framework of the ALBATROS project, a reliable model to assess and mitigate possible hazards to aviation, which will be taken seriously in future aviation planning. This work is directly related to the recent development of the Space Situational Awareness activity by the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory", says Professor Ilya Usoskin.

The upcoming technological improvements of recent years pose new challenges to the whole system that shall ensure the benefits associated with, for example, electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft won’t introduce side effects on safety and passengers’ survivability.

As a result of the current situation, the European Executive Agency for Climate Infrastructure and Environment has co-founded the ALBATROS project in order to promote progress in aviation while ensuring high safety standards and increasing resilience to evolving hazards. This Horizon Innovation Action will create a concept for the near real-time sharing of safety information with aviation stakeholder in order to improve survivability of passengers, cabin crew, aircraft and infrastructure. To this, the Consortium takes into account new risks and technologies that may impact current aviation operations.

For four years, ALBATROS will consider risks related to new hazards in aviation and new aircraft entrants. The Consortium will also weigh the impact of climate change on airports, the risks associated with new fuels and energy systems (e.g., electric powertrains and hydrogen-powered aircraft), and cybersecurity incidents. This assessment will run parallel with the development of measures to increase overall aviation safety, encompassing passengers, aircraft, and airport infrastructures.

After the first year, namely, in November 2023, the project will release the first concept for real‐time sharing of safety intelligence, together with the analysis of potential survivability and mitigation strategies. Then, as the second-year progresses, the project will get into full swing.

By October 2024, ALBATROS will share the assessment results of new aviation-related hazards. Around the same period, the Consortium will release the mitigations to the risks related to electric and hybrid-powered aircraft. In June 2025, ALBATROS will launch an online digital toolkit for assessing and improving human performance and decision-making in crises and emergencies. And finally, the Consortium will demonstrate most of the methodologies and tools developed between 2025 and 2026.

Last updated: 17.4.2024