Clean Aviation

In line with the ambitious goals set out in the European Green Deal the European aeronautics community is committed to reach climate neutrality in 2050. Together with the European Union it has created an institutionalized European Partnership for Clean Aviation under Horizon Europe to pave the way to a safe, reliable, affordable, and clean air transport.

Clean Aviation will substanciate Europe’s leadership in innovation and technology, thus delivering jobs and economic growth throughout the transition to a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. It offers future generations the promise of continued, affordable, and equal access to air travel, with all of its social and economic benefits, and contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

With the aim to further improve the energy efficiency of future aircraft and massively reduce their emissions, the Clean Aviation program is pursuing three key thrusts:


Hybrid electric regional aircraft

Due to the shorter route lengths, regional aircraft can particularly benefit from new hybrid-electric propulsion technologies and energy architectures. Clean Aviation is therefore driving research and innovation in this area and promoting the maturation of new configurations, on-board energy concepts and flight control technologies.


Ultra-efficient short and short-medium range aircraft

The short and short-medium range needs are addressed with innovative aircraft architectures that utilize highly integrated, ultra-efficient thermal propulsion systems leveraging disruptive improvements in fuel efficiency. This will be essential for the transition to low/zero-emission energy sources (synthetic fuels, non-drop-in fuels such as hydrogen), which will be more energy intensive to produce, more expensive, and only available in limited quantities.


Disruptive technologies to enable hydrogen-powered aircraft

This pillar focuses on enabling aircraft and engines to exploit the potential of hydrogen as a non-drop-in alternative zero-carbon fuel, in particular liquid hydrogen. The projects will align technological capability and maturity, as well as the performance gains achievable with the performance requirements for the various aircraft categories.

In each of these thrusts new knowledge and skills are in focus. Innovative technologies and prerequisites are developed, further matured and validated and the implementation risks for the identified technologies and solutions are reduced. The targeted research and development efforts result in demonstrators that show what is possible and lay the foundation for industrial implementation.



In the AMBER (InnovAtive DeMonstrator for hyBrid-Electric Regional Application) project, around 20 partners of consortium leader Avio Aero S.R.L. are developing a turboprop propulsion system that is supported by an electric motor which draws its power from a fuel cell. The aim is to reduce consumption during a typical regional flight by at least 50 percent compared to current propulsion concepts. Fraunhofer IISB is involved in the development and testing of the drive train.


The aim of Clean Aviation’s project CONCERTO (Construction Of Novel CERTification methOds and means of compliance for disruptive technologies) is to provide a comprehensive set of rules for the certification of innovative products in order to improve safety on the one hand and to bring new products to market and into operation faster on the other. Dassault Aviation is leading the consortium of more than 30 partners, in which the Fraunhofer IISB is responsible for battery system safety.


The FASTER-H2 project (Fuselage, Rear Fuselage and Empennage with Cabin and Cargo Architecture Solution Validation and Technologies for H2 Integration) is developing the architecture of an ultra-efficient, hydrogen-powered short- and medium-haul aircraft. Airbus Operations GmbH coordinates the project with more than 30 partners. The Fraunhofer Institutes IMWS and ICT are working on a new generation of sustainable rudder structure based on thermoplastic materials including life cycle analyses.


The main goal of the H2ELIOS project (HydrogEn Lightweight & Innovative tank for zerO-emisSion aircraft) is to develop aviation-suitable tank systems for liquid hydrogen from the most sustainable materials possible. To save weight, the tank shall be able to be seamlessly integrated into the primary structure of the aircraft. The project with 14 partners is coordinated by Aciturri Engineering SL. Fraunhofer ENAS is developing suitable hydrogen sensors as part of the safety concept.


A hybrid-electric aircraft propulsion system requires very high electrical power. The goal of the HECATE (Hybrid ElectriC regional Aircraft distribution Technologies) project is to develop a high-voltage distribution technology and validate it in ground tests. The consortium comprising 36 partners is led by Collins Aerospace Ireland Ltd. The Fraunhofer Institutes IISB and ENAS are developing a lightweight high-performance ceramic-based module, among other things.


HERA (Hybrid-Electric Regional Architecture) will develop the key architectures of environmentally friendly regional aircraft. The HERA aircraft will include hybrid-electric propulsion based on batteries or fuel cells as energy sources supported by sustainable aviation fuels or hydrogen burning. The goal is to reach 90 % lower emissions. The consortium of 48 partners, including Fraunhofer Institutes ICT (ecoDESIGN) and IISB (power electronics), is led by Leonardo S.p.A..


The HERWINGT project (Hybrid Electric Regional Wing Integration Novel Green Technologies) focuses on the development of lighter wings with better aerodynamics for hybrid-electric regional aircraft. Higher integrated systems, new materials and technologies aim at a weight reduction of 20 percent. The consortium leader of the project with more than 25 partners is Airbus Defence and Space SA (ES). Fraunhofer IKTS is developing the data acquisition system for structural health monitoring. 


The HyPoTraDe (Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Power Train Demonstration) project focuses on the development of safe and reliable architectures for a modular high-performance electric powertrain that uses fuel cells and batteries as energy sources. The coordinator of the project with five partners is Pipistrel Vertical Solutions DOO. Fraunhofer IISB is responsible for significant parts of the development and testing of the powertrain.


The NEWBORN project (NExt generation high poWer fuel cells for airBORNe applications) aims at developing the technological basis for aviation fuel cells with outputs up to the megawatt range. The project’s goal is to achieve a propulsion system efficiency of 50% by 2026. NEWBORN is coordinated by Honeywell International SRO and comprises 18 partners, including the Fraunhofer Institutes ICT, ENAS and IISB, which is work package leader for the high voltage power distribution system.


The Clean Aviation SMR-ACAP project (Small and Medium Range AirCraft Architecture and technology integration Project) merges the results of its systems related development work with those coming from other projects and evaluates their combined potential to reduce, by 2035, greenhouse gas emissions from SMR aircraft by 30 percent compared to 2020 state-of-the-art. Airbus Operations GmbH is the consortium leader of the project with a total of around 25 partners. Fraunhofer ICT is contributing its expertise in the field of ecoDESIGN.


Regional and short to medium-range aircraft with hybrid electric power and propulsion systems generate excess heat, rising onboard thermal management needs from around 50 kW to the range of 1000 kW. In the project TheMa4HERA (Thermal Management for the Hybrid Electric Regional Aircraft) a consortium of more than 20 partners led by Honeywell International SRO develops and tests innovative technologies for thermal management handling and heat dissipation. Fraunhofer participants are IISB and IBP.


The EU-funded UP Wing project will develop key technologies for ultra-efficient short/medium-range aircrafts. Specifically, it will integrate ultra-performance wing concepts with the aim of contributing to a fuel burn reduction at aircraft level of 30 % compared to a state-of-the-art short / medium-haul aircraft. The interdisciplinary consortium consists of airframe integrators, industry, research establishments, and academia. The Fraunhofer institutes IFAM, LBF, and EMI contribute with their expertise on surface technology, actuators, and simulation.