Sky-Smart: Google & Airlines Trim Contrails for Greener Flights

  • Google collaborates with American Airlines and Breakthrough Energy to develop sustainable flight routes
  • Innovative contrail forecast maps utilize satellite imagery and AI to minimize contrail formation
  • Test flights show a promising 54% reduction in contrails, addressing aviation's climate impact while sustainable solutions are developed

In a significant stride toward combatting the adverse environmental impact of aviation, Google has embarked on a pioneering partnership with American Airlines and Bill Gates’ climate investment fund, Breakthrough Energy. The joint effort aims to revolutionize flight routes, with the ultimate goal of minimizing contrail formation and subsequently curbing the aviation sector’s contribution to global warming.

Contrails, the distinctive white streaks often observed behind aircraft, have long been a subject of environmental concern. Formed when water vapor condenses around particles released by airplanes, these trails inadvertently contribute to global warming by trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Responsible for approximately 35 percent of aviation’s overall impact on global warming, contrails have become a focal point for researchers and industry leaders seeking innovative solutions.

Leveraging the power of satellite imagery and artificial intelligence (AI), Google and its collaborators have developed advanced algorithms capable of predicting the areas most likely to generate contrails. This cutting-edge technology provides pilots with crucial information to make real-time adjustments to their flight paths, effectively avoiding regions conducive to contrail formation.

“It’s just like a big map that’s saying, ‘Look, planes flying at this altitude will make a contrail. So let’s not fly any planes through there,'” explained Scott Geraedts, a Google software engineer, in a recent video release accompanying a blog post about the project.

To validate the effectiveness of this novel approach, American Airlines pilots participated in an extensive testing phase, conducting 70 test flights over a span of six months. The results were remarkably promising. Test flights utilizing the contrail forecast maps demonstrated a 54 percent reduction in contrail formation compared to flights where pilots did not receive real-time contrail data.

Deborah Hecker, Director of Flight Operations at American Airlines, attested to the simplicity of the system’s integration: “It was very easy, very intuitive. We already change altitudes pretty often to avoid turbulence, so this is completely similar.”

While the adoption of contrail forecast maps led to a minor increase in fuel consumption due to route adjustments—approximately 2 percent—the impact across an entire airline fleet remained minimal. Translated to South African Rand (ZAR), the additional cost ranged from ZAR90 to ZAR450 for each ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided, a marginal expense when considering the substantial environmental benefit.

However, experts and industry stakeholders emphasize the need for further research and development before the approach can be fully embraced on a larger scale. The collaborative research between Google, American Airlines, and Breakthrough Energy has yet to undergo peer review, although the company has reportedly submitted its findings to a scientific journal.

As the aviation industry continues its efforts to address climate change, this groundbreaking collaboration offers a beacon of hope. By empowering pilots with vital data to make informed decisions about flight paths and contrail formation, Google and its partners have taken a commendable step toward mitigating the aviation sector’s carbon footprint. While sustainable aircraft and fuels are still on the horizon, this innovative solution may play a critical role in the interim. As this transformative initiative progresses, the world watches with anticipation for its potential to reshape the aviation industry and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Visited 1 times, 1 visit(s) today

Stay ahead in the financial world – Sign Up to Rateweb’s essential newsletter for free. Get the latest insights on business trends, tech innovations, and market movements, directly to your inbox. Join our community of savvy readers and never miss an update that could impact your financial decisions.

Do you have a news tip for Rateweb reporters? Please email us at


Start trading with a free $30 bonus

Trade stocks, forex, commodities, metals and CFDs on stock indices with an internationally licensed and regulated broker. For all clients who open their first real account, XM offers a $30 trading bonus without any initial deposit needed. Learn more about how you can trade over 1000 instruments on the XM MT4 and MT5 platforms from your PC and Mac, or from a variety of mobile devices.


Personal Financial Tools

Below is a list of tools built to assist South Africans to make the best financial decisions:



South Africa’s primary source of financial tools and information

Contact Us


Rateweb strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. This information may be different than what you see when you visit a financial institution, service provider or specific product’s site. All financial products, shopping products and services are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please review the financial institution’s Terms and Conditions.

Rateweb is not a financial service provider and should in no way be seen as one. In compiling the articles for our website due caution was exercised in an attempt to gather information from reliable and accurate sources. The articles are of a general nature and do not purport to offer specialised and or personalised financial or investment advice. Neither the author, nor the publisher, will accept any responsibility for losses, omissions, errors, fortunes or misfortunes that may be suffered by any person that acts or refrains from acting as a result of these articles.