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AI helps airline pilots avoid areas that create polluting contrails

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By illuminem briefings

· 2 min read

illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on The Guardian or enjoy below

🗞️ Driving the news: Google and American Airlines conducted an experiment that demonstrated a potential 54% reduction in aircraft contrails by utilizing artificial intelligence models to select optimal flight altitudes

🔭 The context: Contrails form when soot from burning kerosene combines with water particles, trapping solar radiation
• They play a significant role in non-carbon warming from planes
• Aviation's total contribution to global heating effects is about 3.5%, considering both CO₂ emissions and non-CO₂ pollutants

🌎 Why does it matter for the planet: With aviation's non-CO₂ pollutants contributing to global warming, and no large-scale technology currently available to decarbonize long-haul travel, initiatives like this experiment can have a meaningful impact on reducing the sector's emissions.

⏭️ What's next: The trial's success in reducing contrails might encourage further research and implementation, with companies like Airbus and Boeing also exploring ways to minimize contrails 
• Google's work in contrail avoidance could even become a profitable service for the tech giant

💬 One quote: “This is the first proof point that commercial flights can verifiably avoid contrails and thereby reduce their climate impact” (Carl Elkin, Staff Software Engineer at Google)

📈 One stat: The experiment revealed that flights needed to burn 2% more fuel to avoid contrails, but the overall increase in fuel consumption could be limited to just 0.3% across all flights, as a small number of flights cause the majority of contrails

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