While the past decade has seen airlines stripping away everything but the bare necessities from planes (I think they charge for pressurized cabins these days), one new addition, an advanced GPS tracking system, could make air travel faster, safer and more efficient.
The technology known as Required Navigation Performance (RNP) was developed by GE Aviation, and differs from the current flight path system in that it doesn’t rely on terrestrial radio signals for navigation. By using GPS satellites, the RNP system is able to track planes within 32 feet of their location.
Through this highly accurate GPS system, air traffic controllers are able to create a digital air highway that cuts down on variances in flight patterns. These 3D flight paths remove any guesswork or estimation from a pilot’s route. By standardizing flight lanes and routes, pilots are able to minimize flight times, which reduces fuel costs and lowers carbon emissions. The main trouble area that the RNP system helps alleviate is landing times, which have become increasingly problematic in airports around the world in recent years.
The RNP system hasn’t been universally instated, but it’s already proving wildly successful in the airports that have adopted it. In Brazil, which has taken on the RNP system in about a dozen airports throughout the country, landing times have been cut by 7.5 minutes on average, and flights are down 22 miles; bringing a total drop in emissions of around 1,620 pounds. By instating this system, Brazil stands to save nearly $24 million over the next five years.
With the World Cup and Olympics both upcoming in Brazil, the RNP system and improved flight efficiency couldn’t have come at a better time. With hope, this GPS-based system will be adopted universally, cutting down both emissions, flight times, and ticket costs.