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Electric Aircraft Assignment, Routing, and Charge Scheduling Considering the Availability of Renewable Energy

Finn VehlhaberMauro Salazar
Sep 2023
Electric airplanes are expected to take to the skies soon, finding first use cases in small networks within hardly accessible areas, such as island communities. In this context, the environmental footprint of such airplanes will be strongly determined by the energy sources employed when charging them. This paper presents a framework to optimize aircraft assignment, routing and charge schedules explicitly accounting for the energy availability at the different airports, which are assumed to be equipped with renewable energy sources and stationary batteries. Specifically, considering the daily travel demand and weather conditions forecast in advance, we first capture the aircraft operations within a time-expanded directed acyclic graph, and combine it with a dynamic energy model of the individual airports. Second, aiming at minimizing grid-dependency, we leverage our models to frame the optimal electric aircraft and airport operational problem as a mixed-integer linear program that can be solved with global optimality guarantees. Finally, we showcase our framework in a real-world case-study considering one week of operations on the Dutch Leeward Antilles. Our results show that, depending on weather conditions and compared to current schedules, optimizing flights and operations in a renewable-energy-aware manner can reduce grid dependency from 18 to 100%, whilst significantly shrinking the operational window of the airplanes.
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