Thales is a key stakeholder in major national and international programmes aimed at managing and coordinating research and technological development projects to improve the environmental footprint in transport.
Thales is a founding member of Clean Sky, one of the largest European research programmes ever. The objective of this public-private initiative is to speed adoption of new greener design practices by an industry which traditionally has long design cycles and product lifetimes.
The environmental goals for the Clean Sky initiative, which need to be achieved by 2020, have been set by ACARE, the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe:
50% reduction of CO2 emissions through significant reductions in fuel consumption
80% reduction of NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions
noise levels reduced by 50%
a green product life cycle (design, manufacturing, maintenance and disposal/recycling).
Thales is coordinating one of the six main research topics, "Systems for Green Operations", which aims to reduce aircraft energy consumption through trajectory management, notably during take-off and approaches. It is also coordinating Clean Sky's "Technology Evaluator", a simulation tool to assess the environmental impact of the programme.
Thales is also a major player on the SESAR programme launched by the European Commission in 2004. One of SESAR's key objectives is to reduce the environmental footprint of the civil aviation sector.
Several specific targets have been set:
By 2020, reduce CO2 emissions by 10% per flight (against a 2005 baseline)
Reduce aircraft noise emissions by 20 dB during take-off and landing
Increase the influence of local environmental regulations on air traffic management decisions.
Le projet NextGen (Système de Transport Aérien de Nouvelle Génération) est l'équivalent américain du programme SESAR. En cours de déploiement, ce projet doit permettre de raccourcir les routes aériennes, gagner du temps et de carburant, réduire les retards et accroître la capacité.
Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Quebec (CRIAQ)
Thales is also partnering a project led by the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Quebec (CRIAQ), a non-profit organisation established in 2002 to increase the competitiveness of the aerospace industry. Now in its second phase, this project is currently focusing on new wing architectures in an effort to reduce drag and in turn bring down fuel consumption. Such advances will also shorten take-off and landing distances, since aircraft will be able to take off and land at slower speeds.
To achieve their environmental goals, aircraft manufacturers must improve aircraft designs, with more fuel-efficient engines and lighter, more aerodynamic structures. With aircraft life cycles of 30 years or more, these changes will not happen overnight, but considerable progress has already been made. In 1969, the Boeing 747 consumed nearly 12 tonnes of fuel per hour, and the Concorde consumed 20. Today, an Airbus A320 consumes around 5 tonnes an hour and a Boeing 747-8 consumes less than 10 — and both can transport many more passengers than their predecessors. The future has arrived!
The French civil aviation research committee CORAC was created in 2008 following commitments made at that year's environmental summit (Grenelle de l'Environnement). Thales is coordinating one of the platforms set up to develop extended modular avionics that will optimise flight paths during the cruise phase and should generate fuel savings of 5% and reduce the aircraft's noise footprint on landing.
Following in the footsteps of the CleanSky and SESAR programmes set up for the aerospace industry in the 2000s, SHIFT2RAIL was launched in July 2014 in a major effort to make the European rail transport sector more competitive. Thales is one of eight founding members of this 1 billion euro programme. The programme's name is a clear indication of its environmental goal of shifting a large portion of users from the roads to rail. The initiative is a response to Europe's political resolve to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050 in line with the goals of the 2011 White Paper on Transport.
The SHIFT2RAIL programme also aims to make rail transport more attractive to users and integrate rail more closely with other modes of transport. Key objectives include:
- 100% increase in European rail system capacity (in network equivalent)
- 50% improvement in reliability (in particular a reduction in delays)
- 50% reduction in life cycle costs
Galileo and EGNOS
Galileo is a European global positioning system project that will end Europe's dependence on the American GPS system. EGNOS aims to make GPS more accurate and also offers a Safety of Life Service that can be used in civil aviation and other fields.
Thales has been a key player in both of these programmes since they were started. Thales played a major role in launching these programmes, and is now developing receivers and services to maximise user benefits in terms of efficiency and environmental performance.
The Copernicus programme, formerly known GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), aims to provide Europe with an autonomous capacity of observation and Earth monitoring. This programme aims to provide Europe with continuous, independent and reliable data in the fields of environment and security, namely the monitoring of the marine environment, atmosphere, land and climate change, and support to emergency and safety procedures.
The Copernicus programme is the European component of the GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems), a global program of Earth observation initiated by the EU, the US, Japan and South Africa.
Elaboration of standards
The European Train Control System (ETCS) was developed in 1996 based on European Union Directive 96/48 on the interoperability of the trans-European rail system.
The ETCS makes trains easier to drive with smarter signalling for optimum operational safety. The system is being deployed by the European Railway Agency (ERA), with technical specifications proposed by UNISIG.
Thales played a key role in defining and implementing this European standard and now offers fully compliant solutions. Thales is the current chair of UNISIG.
Environmental footprint standard
Beyond the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from its own activities, Thales encourages its partners to adopt a responsible attitude. Since 2009, Thales co-chairs the working group "Carbon" of GIFAS (Groupement des Industries Aeronautiques et Spatiales) and participates in the working group on Greenhouse Gas of IAEG (International Aerospace Environmental Group) to define international standards. Thales is also involved in partnerships with other manufacturers, research laboratories and government agencies.
Reducing our environmental footprint
The Group is committed to reducing the environmental footprint of its activities by analysing their impact and the associated risks for people and the environment. Alongside technical and organisational measures, the most effective ways of delivering performance improvements are to share best practices and support behavioural changes.
Reducing carbon emissions
Thales is responding to the major issue of climate change in ways that are directly relevant to its business activities. As well as implementing a strategy of at-source reduction of CO2 emissions, the Group is helping to raise awareness of climate-related issues through a number of programmes and partnerships, while promoting products and services that support the emission-reduction initiatives of its customers and society at large.
Since Thales introduced indicators of CO2 emissions and set emission-reduction targets several years ago, awareness of the impact of Thales's activities on climate change has grown, and a number of new opportunities have been identified. For example, refurbishing and renovating certain buildings to more stringent ecological standards and changing equipment and consumption habits are just some of the measures taken to improve energy efficiency and in turn reduce CO2 emissions.
Ozone-depleting substances mainly used in refrigeration systems are being monitored and reduced under specific plans, particularly those cited in the Kyoto Protocol. Of these, SF6 accounts for more than 57 % of Thales's CO2 emissions linked to Protocol substances. This gas, used in a speciﬁc industrial process to insulate electronic tubes during high-voltage tests, has a very high GWP (global warming potential). The few sites that use SF6 have implemented ambitious plans, such as eliminating it altogether from tube manufacturing processes, or modifying installations that operate using the gas. This enabled emissions to be reduced by 67% between 2007 and 2014.
Thales has also stepped up initiatives to reduce emissions from business travel (by road, air and rail). Efforts have continued to encourage the use of videoconferencing and teleconferencing, car sharing, hiring vehicles with lower fuel consumption, etc.
Fighting climate change: Thales among the best performers
Reducing consumption of natural resources
Thales has been developing a natural resources strategy for several years and has introduced various programmes aimed at controlling and reducing consumption. These programmes focus on areas such as energy efficiency of buildings and industrial processes and optimisation of water use.
After reducing its energy consumption by 12% between 2008 and 2012, the Group continued its efforts by achieving a further cut of 5% between 2012 and 2014. The percentage of electricity from renewable sources now represents 18% of electricity consumption.
New energy-efﬁcient buildings help to reduce energy consumption. Green IT is also used to reduce the environmental footprint of IT equipment and of information systems in general. For example, the use of new-generation inverters and the optimisation of IT equipment have helped reduce energy consumption by over 10% in some cases.
Water is a fundamental resource that needs to be preserved. The Group's programme launched in 2000 to reduce water consumption continues to deliver results (34% reduction between 2007 and 2014).
Limiting discharges and reducing waste
In general, Thales's activities do not generate atmospheric discharges, with the exception of those linked to site operations (in particular heating). A few sites do generate industrial discharges to the atmosphere, which are collected and treated where necessary by means of air ﬁlters, gas scrubbers, etc. and are regularly checked.
Together, the Group's Australian facilities account for 91% of total emissions.
Thales's activities generate little in the way of industrial wastewater discharges. 90% of such discharges originate from just six sites. Despite increases in production at certain sites, wastewater discharges have fallen by 5 % since 2013 as a result of ongoing plant optimisation and modernisation measures.
As part of its waste targets, Thales aims to reduce the quantity of waste it produces, as well as improving the recycling rate.
Having reduced the quantity of non-hazardous waste produced per person by 30% between 2008 and 2012, Thales went even further in 2014 and achieved an additional 6% reduction by introducing various waste sorting measures, finding optimum waste treatment streams and changing behaviours (for example through the introduction of a new printing policy, and the re-use of cardboard and other packaging to reduce waste production and improve waste treatment).
The recycling rate for non-hazardous waste stood at 51% in 2014. The Group focuses heavily on hazardous waste, which it manages using dedicated collection and storage areas. As a result of measures taken since 2007, 82% of all waste is now recovered.
Protecting natural sites and preserving biodiversity
Preserving species and their habitats, for example areas containing native flora, and protecting our natural and historic heritage must be a part of our day-to-day efforts to help protect the environment.
The Group has been working to address this major environmental challenge for many years, having drawn up an initial inventory of French sites located in or near protected areas containing rare or endangered flora, fauna and habitats in 2006. It also evaluated the impact of its activities on biodiversity at certain sites, and the extent to which the company is dependent on the "ecosystem services" provided by nature.
At the same time, as part of a macroscopic approach, Thales mapped biodiversity risks at 140 sites in 26 countries in order to obtain a cohesive overview of Group sites located in areas with the highest biodiversity risks.
Although the overall impact of the Group's activities on biodiversity is low, ﬂora and fauna are of particular concern at a number of sites, and Thales encourages employees everywhere to preserve and promote biodiversity.
Inventories of species are carried out at certain sites, either on a volunteer basis or in partnership with the authorities or local biodiversity protection organisations, and tailored habitat management measures are put in place.
Other sites will focus on outdoor projects to preserve the natural habitat and protect fauna (including bird boxes, feeders, species survey by an expert, etc.) or re-establish native plant species, thereby providing a reasonably safe, protected haven for a huge variety of plants, fungi and animals.
For sites with large areas of open grassland or forest, particular precautions are taken to protect fauna and ﬂora by using natural, low-impact mowing and grazing methods.
At other sites, employees are made aware of biodiversity issues through a range of initiatives, including photographic exhibitions devoted to the forest and to agroforestry or to species present on the site, beekeeping demonstrations, registers of local species and biodiversity blogs.
For a number of years, Thales has been conducting research and development work on gallium nitride (GaN), a new material with unique properties that can help reduce the environmental impact of electrical and electronic equipment.
Gallium nitride is a real technological breakthrough. Its thermal performance offers exceptional potential for reducing energy consumption, and fewer components are required to deliver the same level of power.
Radars: less pollution, better detection and less interference with wind turbines
Thales has introduced a number of innovations in its latest generation of radar systems, reducing energy consumption, cutting emissions and using less of the radio spectrum while also improving performance. Examples include the use of gallium nitride and low-consumption multi-layer processors, and the elimination of the moving parts that consume large quantities of energy.
For Thales, innovation goes hand in glove with environmental stewardship. New solutions to prevent wind turbines from interfering with radar systems are a prime illustration. These solutions ensure that operational radar data is reliable and that governments around the world can meet their renewable energy objectives by expanding the wind energy sector. All categories of radars are affected by wind turbines: air traffic control, defence systems, weather radars, coastal surveillance systems and naval radars operating in littoral waters. Thales innovations include tools that analyse and predict wind turbine effects, then define appropriate mitigations for both. Thales radar processing algorithms can then be updated to meet the needs of both civil and military applications. Thales's technical expertise is key to the ability to quantify the potential impacts of renewable energy programmes, propose efficient solutions, and engage in constructive dialogue with all the stakeholders to find appropriate solutions.
Reducing the environmental impact of military vehicles
DYON, Thales's innovative hybrid-energy solution, automatically switches between a vehicle's auxiliary generator and lithium batteries to power onboard systems in military vehicles and containerised defence systems. Solar panels can also provide additional power.
This system for managing energy production, storage and consumption reduces the logistical footprint of convoys — less fuel to transport, requiring fewer vehicles — cutting CO2 emissions by tens of thousands of tonnes and adding numerous operational beneﬁts such as increased battery life, less noise, fewer emissions and no heat signature.