Delta Air Lines announced plans to launch the Delta Sustainable Skies Lab, a new innovation-focused initiative aimed at accelerating research, design and testing for sustainable aviation solutions, and supporting the company’s goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

The aviation industry has come under scrutiny as a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, responsible for 2-3% of global emissions, with that figure potentially rising dramatically over the coming decades if no action is taken. Initiatives being pursued to address the climate impact of the industry typically involve efforts to improve aircraft efficiency, develop sustainable aviation fuels, or create aircraft utilizing low or zero carbon propulsion systems such as electric or hydrogen-based, although many of these are at early stages of development.

Delta said that its new lab, aiming to bridge the gap between ideas and proven innovation, will focus on areas including clean fuel, efficient flying operations, revolutionary fleet concepts and sustainable travel & business practices.

Pam Fletcher, Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said:

“This work is imperative for our planet and our business. We’ve seen how critical human connection is to thrive – and how travel is the great enabler. As we make progress toward our sustainability goals, we want to make sure our customers will feel as good about flying as they do about the connections made with the people and places we take them to.”

Delta was one of the first major airlines to launch a goal to achieve carbon neutrality. In 2020 the company committed to invest $1 billion towards funding efforts to advance clean air technologies, reduce carbon emissions and waste, and establish new projects to mitigate the balance of emissions.

To support its 2050 goals, the company said that the new lab will focus both on internal innovation  connecting, aligning and showcasing initiatives from its Flight Operations, Technical Operations, Inflight Services, Operations & Customer Center and Fleet, as well as on partnerships, such as a recent hydrogen-powered aviation-focused collaboration launched with Airbus.

Fletcher added:

“With aviation being a hard-to-decarbonize industry, none of us can do this alone. We’re rolling out the welcome mat for disruptors of choice to take advantage of Delta’s global resources to accelerate our path to decarbonization and a fully sustainable travel experience.”

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