Airbus has announced plans to demonstrate the operational feasibility of its ‘fello’fly’ concept, designed to reduce aviation emissions.

The idea is inspired by biomimicry, and is based on Wake Energy Retrieval (WER), which sees “follower aircraft retrieving energy lost by a leader, by flying in the smooth updraft of air the wake creates, reducing fuel consumption in the range of 5-10 per cent per trip”.

The manufacturer has partnered with SAS and Frenchbee for the project, as well as three Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) – France’s DSNA (Direction des Services de la Navigation Aérienne), and the UK’s NATS and Eurocontrol.

Under the agreement the partners will develop “a safe and realistic concept of operations (CONOPS) necessary to shape future operational regulations for fello’flights”.

Flight tests will take place throughout 2020 using two Airbus A350 aircraft, with the involvement of the airlines and ASNPs “as early as 2021 in an oceanic airspace”.

Airbus said that Frenchbee and SAS “will provide airline expertise in flight planning and operations for the collaborative requirements necessary for bringing together aircraft before and during a fello’fly operation”, while the ASNPs “will contribute air navigation expertise defining how two aircraft can be brought safely together, minimising impact on today’s procedures”.

The manufacturer is targeting a controlled entry-into-service for the concept by the middle of this decade, and highlighted its “high potential to make a significant impact on emissions reduction for the aviation industry as a whole, directly contributing to the sector’s sustainable growth goals”.