What we do for climate protection 

Short routes, optimal flight profiles, little waiting time: There are many aspects of a flight where DFS can influence the aircraft under its control to ensure it not only reaches its destination safely and on time, but also in as environmentally friendly manner as possible. The modernisation of our facilities also contributes to climate protection, and is paving the way for the further expansion of wind power. 

Modern systems, smooth flow of traffic

DFS operates various air traffic control systems, which support air traffic controllers in their work and which we continue to enhance. Together with European partners, we have developed the iCAS air traffic control system, with which we are advancing air traffic control. With iCAS, it is possible to plan and handle every flight even more precisely than before. This technical support is particularly valuable during peak traffic periods, as many work steps are automated. This means more flights can be handled on time and with more direct routings. After starting in the upper area control centre in Karlsruhe, we are now gradually equipping all DFS control centres with this system.

Another tool is the AMAN arrival management system. This tool helps our air traffic controllers to optimise approach flows and
adjust approach sequences in order to optimally utilise the limited capacity of an airport. AMAN works on the basis of split-second simulations and is a great support, especially during busy periods. We are currently in the process of transitioning our air traffic control systems into a modern, cloud-based IT architecture. This will reduce the number of local installations and servers we need, lowering costs and reducing power consumption.

view on crusing airplane from above

aircraft approaching airport

An approach that saves fuel

Continuous descent operations (CDO) are a particularly fuel-saving and low-emission approach procedure when aircraft come in to land. If possible, aircraft descend continuously with minimum engine power after leaving the cruising level until landing, ideally gliding down to the runway. Horizontal flight phases in which the engines have to provide thrust are thus largely avoided. 

DFS offers airlines continuous descent approaches from the upper airspace of Austria and Switzerland when flying to the major German airports. This reduces fuel consumption in German airspace by almost 110,000 tonnes per year. However, the CDO procedure is only possible if the traffic and weather situation permits. 

Another procedure that is currently being tested at Frankfurt Airport during the day is the satellite-based segmented approach. It shortens the final approach and thus saves fuel. In addition, thanks to satellite navigation, densely populated regions can be flown around more precisely. 

apron view at Frankfurt airport

Smooth processes on the ground

Tailbacks cost fuel – this also applies to airports. Ideally, there should be no delays between engine start-up and take-off. For this reason, DFS, together with airport operators and airlines, is using automated data exchange at several airports. This procedure, known as airport collaborative decision making, or A-CDM for short, enables optimised scheduling from engine start-up though taxiing to the take-off clearance. For this purpose, operational data is exchanged in real time between DFS, airlines and airports at the A-CDM airports. The procedure is currently in use at seven major international airports in Germany: Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Berlin. It has proven to be successful. At Munich Airport alone, we have reduced the taxiing times of departing aircraft by around 10 percent.

aircraft on cruise altitude

Research for climate-friendly flying

To reduce the carbon dioxide emissions produced by air transport as much as possible, we are continuously developing our air traffic control systems, procedures and the associated technology. We work closely with our European partner organisations and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in this regard. We rely heavily on what science tells us. For example, researchers at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) have discovered that condensation trails (contrails) are produced more frequently at certain altitudes, and that they, like carbon dioxide, influence the climate. Together with partners from the aviation industry, we are therefore looking for ways to avoid such particularly climate-sensitive level bands in the future. 

radar station

Radar facilities with fewer emissions

DFS radar facilities are distributed throughout Germany. We attach great importance to redundancy and systems being fail-safe as these facilities provide our air traffic controllers with information on the position of aircraft. Energy consumption also represents an important factor. In the next few years, we will thoroughly modernise 23 facilities or, due to increased range, be able to shut them down. Thanks to the further development of semiconductor technology, improved receivers and digital signal detectors, the new facilities cause fewer emissions and consume less energy. In total, the savings amount to two gigawatt hours per year, the equivalent of 800 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

wind turbine

Air traffic control and wind energy 

Currently, DFS operates more than 55 so-called omnidirectional radio beacons, which support aircraft in their navigation. In the next few years, we will be able to do without one in three of these beacons, and in the long term, we will even be able to do without the majority of them. By 2030, as stipulated by an EU regulation, we will switch to area navigation with satellites.  

The prerequisite for this is that all aircraft are equipped with the necessary technology. The extent to which the erection of more wind turbines will be possible near the sites of such facilities in the future must still be examined for each individual project. In addition, as the number of beacons decreases, the energy demand decreases as well, and with it the volume of emissions. Area navigation also makes approach and departure procedures even more precise than before.  

Wind energy