How Viasat satellite networks enable conservation and decarbonization

A deep dive into how space technology is helping foster sustainable practices

Earth observation satellite
Getty Images

Reducing carbon emissions has become the defining challenge of our era.

Thankfully satellite technology is already playing an increasingly important role in helping address climate change from space, miles above the Earth.

Key takeaways

  • Satellites are responsible for the reduction of approximately 1.5 gigatons of CO2 per year.
  • Satellites help airlines reduce their carbon footprint by optimizing flight routes and minimizing delays.
  • With real-time tracking, weather updates, and efficient fleet management, satellites help minimize shipping fuel consumption and emissions.
  • The integration of satellite technology with IoT and smart grids helps reduce energy waste, promote renewable energy integration, and create more sustainable energy systems.
  • Satellite connectivity plays a role in conservation by monitoring deforestation, illegal fishing and wildlife populations.
  • Satellites help farmers make data-driven decisions, reducing water and fertilizer usage, minimizing waste, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
Satellite sustainability CO2 reduction across industry stat

Can space help with decarbonization?

When we think about the challenges we face on Earth, the instinct is to look for answers around us. But what if these answers are above us?

Satellites are becoming the essential backbone of sustainability initiatives. In our report, “Can space help save the planet?,” it was found that satellites are helping reduce CO2 emissions to the tune of 1,500,000,000 tons (1.5 gigatons) of carbon emissions per year – the equivalent carbon output of the United Kingdom, France and Germany combined.

Transformational industry impacts
Space technologies are radically transforming how we live, work, produce and transport goods across the globe. Agriculture, maritime, aviation and the energy sectors have been found to contribute an estimated 60% of the world’s carbon emissions. This is where the space sector offers a very impactful opportunity to support decarbonization.

Satellites can reduce CO2 in aviation

Achieving Sustainable Aviation

When you think of satellites and aviation, you probably think of in-flight Wi-Fi, but satellites bring much more to the table than that. Satellites play a critical role not only in flight safety but are also crucial to optimizing for more efficient routes and reduce fuel consumption through the process.

The aviation sector is a major contributor to CO2 emissions and a large portion of these emissions can be addressed by reducing inefficiencies. Viasat technologies like Classic Aero and SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) help aircraft identify optimal routes and reduce unnecessary fuel burn.

In 2023, 34.4 million commercial planes traversed the globe, a 24% increase over 2022. As the numbers continue to grow, so does airway and airport congestion. One of the most significant opportunities to address aviation emissions is the continued modernization of Air Traffic Management (ATM) capabilities.

easyJet is one of the first commercial aircraft partners to use Iris
easyJet is one of the first commercial aircraft partners to use Iris

Reducing emissions with Iris Air Traffic Management (ATM)
Led by the European Space Agency (ESA) in partnership with Viasat, Iris is a ground-breaking ATM program that enables aircraft to fly more fuel-efficient routes by providing digital satellite communications to complement VHF data link, which is nearing a capacity crunch in increasingly congested airspace. By digitally connecting the ATM ecosystem, it enhances collaboration between pilots and air traffic controllers to maximize airspace use and reduce the impact of disruptions for passengers. This means the industry will be able to double or even triple the number of planes in the proximate airspace while flying environmentally optimized trajectories.

Iris is also able to help decarbonize the skies through the use of 4D Trajectory-Based Operations. One of the first airlines to start using our Iris ATM program is easyJet. Using ‘4D trajectories’ that can pinpoint an aircraft in four dimensions - latitude, longitude, altitude, and time - pilots and air traffic controllers can calculate the shortest available routes, cruise at optimum altitudes, and use continuous climb and descent paths. With this real-time information, fuel emissions can be significantly reduced.

Bellweather Industries eVTOL and Velaris
Bellweather Industries

Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL)
It might feel like science fiction to think that you could have your own flying car, but that reality is not too far off. We could soon see ourselves using Uber as our sky taxi or skipping the bumper-to-bumper gridlock to get to work with the emergence of electric vehicle takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles in the airspace

Like helicopters, eVOTLs don’t require infrastructure such as large runways or big facilities. They are also completely electric, making them a cleaner way to take to the skies. These vehicles will require secure satellite communications to seamlessly integrate with aircraft in commercial airspace, such as our Velaris solution, designed specifically for the UAV sector.

UK-based eVTOL startup Bellwether Industries recently unveiled its eVOTL, Oryx, which will use Velaris for a wide variety of applications, including ATM. Additionally Viasat partner, Supernal, will connect its eVTOL to Velaris.

UAV freight delivery over a city

Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs)
With more than 660,000 deliveries by UAVs in the last three years, the number of automated deliveries are set to skyrocket.

It’s estimated that by using UAVs for freight delivery, it is possible to reduce urban transport CO2 emissions by up to 47%. To do this UAVs will need constant connectivity. The continued modernization of ATM capabilities coupled with near-global satellite coverage will provide the connectivity that drones require to significantly decarbonize the skies.

In the coming years, UAV satcom solutions, such as Velaris, can provide connectivity to an array of industries beyond freight, including emergency services, disaster relief, urban air transport, and environmental inspection and monitoring.

Satellite sustainability CO2 reduction in the maritime industry stat

Digitizing vessels at sea

The maritime industry transports an estimated 90% of world trade, and contributes to approximately 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, roughly the same level as aviation. The implementation of digital solutions enabled by satellite connectivity is a cost-effective decarbonization solution.

Reducing carbon with satellite-enabled communications
There is a real opportunity to accelerate the digital adoption of satellite connected devices for vessels of all kinds to maximize routing and performance. Without satellite-enabled communications, an industry-wide digitalization strategy would be impossible. Fortunately, with new generations of satellite technology over the past decade, we have seen the industry start to embrace the operational and environmental benefits of digitalization, including:

  • Fleet Xpress, Inmarsat Maritime’s connectivity solution is uniquely designed for the maritime industry and offers a portfolio of edge solutions. By harnessing the power of the connected maritime ecosystem, it is able to support maritime decarbonization.
  • Fleet Data, Inmarsat Maritime’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform, enables ship owners to collect, transfer, store and analyze their onboard IoT data, and secure access to maritime software applications, such as real-time emissions monitoring. These apps empower decision-making around the reduction of fuel consumption.

Energy and Utilities

The demand for energy has often come at a cost to our environment. From oil spills to carbon emissions, the energy industry has faced its fair share of sustainability challenges.

However, amidst this complex landscape, satellites are helping make the energy sector more sustainable. By harnessing the power of real-time satellite-enabled devices and efficiency management tools, satellites are building a path towards a greener future.

Manager using a digital tablet to check the operation of the solar panel system of a solar station. Female technician in reflective clothing holding a tablet PC standing by solar grid at solar farm.
Getty Images

Smart grids
Given the vast scale of the global energy sector, operational efficiencies in energy transmission can make a huge impact too. IoT enabled smart grids improve the efficient distribution of power, including wind and solar. Scalable, real-time monitoring can detect fuel and gas leaks to help sound the alarm on environmental issues and curb emissions.

Currently 500,000,000 tons (0.5 gigatons) of CO2 are removed in the energy sector by these satellite-enabled technologies. What’s more, if a wider spectrum of satellite enabled solutions is universally adopted, that number could rise to 1,900,000,000 tons (1.9 gigatons) of CO2 removed.

Satellite sustainability agriculture and land use CO2 reduction stats

Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation

With the latest advancements in satellite IoT, farmers can implement precision agriculture techniques, as well as tracking and monitoring livestock. Elsewhere, satellite IoT enables the monitoring of hazardous materials and environments, fire detection monitoring, fisheries management, endangered species conservation.

With satellites able to connect directly with devices and scientists, farmers, environmental agencies, across the globe, IoT networks are becoming a central pillar in global decarbonization and sustainability strategies. Viasat’s L-band network provides the 99.9% reliability needed to keep all these critical devices connected in real-time.

Smart farming using IoT

Smart Farming
For the farmer, new breakthroughs in satellite connected devices enable real-time monitoring. With these capabilities, satellites support waste reduction, smart water management and yield management, even in the most remote locations where terrestrial infrastructure is scarce.

Water is the backbone of sustainable agriculture, and satellite enabled IoT solutions offer significant benefits in water conservation Ranchers, like Bar T Bar, rely on Viasat’s L-band network to to monitor their water distribution systems, helping to ensure their cattle stay healthy and they deliver optimal yields.


Environmental disasters
Satellite is helping keep the environment and local communities safe by monitoring hazardous substances and processes. Mining organizations produce tailings (a waste product) as part of the extractive process. With the help of satellite IoT, these vast waste lakes are protected so toxic chemicals don’t leak out and harm the environment. Environmental authorities are also aided through satellite IoT with the detection of rising water levels, changes to infrastructure and tectonic events, ensuring public safety.

Unique IoT technologies help prevent poaching and deforestation
Marco Bonacini

Unique IoT technologies help prevent poaching and deforestation, manage human-wildlife conflict near urban areas and identify endangered species and monitor illegal by catch of threatened marine species.

When it comes to threatened species, monitoring of human-wildlife conflict is critical to managing it. However, connectivity in remote areas can be extremely challenging. That is where IoT connectivity can enable alert systems, simplified data collection and quicker response to poaching.

Space Debris

The importance of space sustainability

Sustainability on Earth relies on satellites, and just like other resources, space is a limited and shared natural resource that needs careful stewardship.

For example, the environmental danger of unchecked mega constellations has the potential to impact sustainability on Earth, including the potential for satellites to damage the Earth’s atmosphere upon reentry. This has a domino effect that can affect climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer.

Given the increasing number of satellites proposed and launched, individuals can deplete this public resource for their own interests. Much like the way we manage air traffic, the way space is accessed and used must be managed. If we ignore these threats, we face an imminent risk of space no longer being available to everyone for science, exploration, monitoring climate change, security, communications, and other commercial, defense and civic purposes. We’re working with industries and governments around the world to develop effective rules and policies to keep space safe and accessible for everyone.

Looking ahead

Sustainability and connectivity go hand-in-hand.

Viasat solutions like Iris, ELEVATE, Velaris, Fleet Xpress and many more enable our customers to make their business more efficient and sustainable. Continued advances in satellite connectivity for aviation, maritime, energy and agriculture industries will help decarbonize the planet. Smart grids, AI-enabled devices and real-time connectivity will all play an increasingly important role in addressing climate change and conservation.

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