South African Airways Forms Green Partnership with Boeing to Develop Alternative Jet Fuel
US planemaker, Boeing has teamed up with South African Airways to develop jet fuel from a tobacco plant as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions and promote green energy in Africa's most advanced economy.
The jet fuel will be made from a hybrid tobacco plant known as Solaris, which will be produced by alternative jet fuel maker, SkyNRG.
Test farming of the plants, which are nicotine-free, is ongoing in South Africa, with biofuel output expected in the "next few years", the companies said.
"By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking," Ian Cruickshank, SAA's Group Environmental Affairs Specialist said.
This biofuel has potential in several regions where traditional tobacco is cultivated; including Africa, southern and central Europe, Asia, Oceania and Latin America, Boeing spokeswoman, Jessica Kowal said.
South Africa has set October next year as the date when fuel producers will start blending diesel and petrol with biofuel to cut its reliance on imported fuel.
The biofuels industry in South Africa, the continent's biggest agricultural producer, has been held back by an inadequate regulatory regime and concerns that biofuels would hurt food security and impact food prices.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”