I am researching into deicing technologies for the future, but apart from Boeing with Ultra/GKN, no one seems to be picking this technology up and being competitive. Any one know why this is? Is it an expensive development? Risky?

Is it on any aircraft manufacturer's roadmaps?

New contributor
K Bingham is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • How many new aircraft have been designed since the 787 was released? If this technology was developed for the 787 (don't know, just speculating) it will take time to work its way into other new designs, and it would require a fair bit of recertification effort to retrofit it into existing designs. This work would cost time and money for little gain since all "modern" currently flying commercial aircraft already have a deicing system in place. – FreeMan Oct 11 at 16:01

I fail to see what is exactly new in the B787 de-icing system, except for the way it is manufactured (spraying metallic layers onto the composite structure).

Electric heating is the most obvious and straightforward method of de-icing, and the least energetically efficient at that. It is much more efficient to break the ice rather than to melt it - in terms of the energy required. Even B787 with its sheer electric supply can't afford anti-icing (that is, constant heating to prevent ice formation), and de-icing power consumption is 45-75 kW.

Perhaps most Russian (larger) aircraft had electrical wing de-icing system: from Tu-95 (1952) to Il-18 (1957) to Tu-154 (1968) (I could give specific links but they are in Russian). Typically, they work in sections to reduce power demand, and consist of heating wires (rather than layers like on 787) that melt the ice.

Later aircraft such as Il-86 (1976) and -96 had a more advanced electric impulse system, which creates mechanical impulse on the leading edge with induction coils. This deforms the skin for a very brief moment to break the accumulated ice.

The F-35 and V-22 also use the same kind of blended electric heating pads as an anti/deice method. According to this article the conductive material that is used to make the heating units is applied during layup of the composite material for the wing. Thus it might not work on metal wing aircraft as most modern airliners are.

There is also the consideration of certification, which in aviation is a very important factor. Once an airframe is certified in a given configuration it may not be financially logical to certify some new part for a system that is already well in place and working.

Also as noted in this question, the 787 lacks the bleed air system needed to drive a classical anti-ice system so another solution is needed. But it still uses engine bleed for engine cowl and nacelle anti-ice.

Apparently electrothermal anti-ice systems are more energy efficient – about 35% better efficiency – than using HP compressor bleed air channeled through pipes to the leading edges of the lifting surfaces. See this article.


I was not aware that Boeing was using electrothermal anti-ice systems on the 787. They have been common in general aviation for sometime. Some examples are the Kelley ThermaWing used on some singles and light twins. But yeah that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of such a system being used on an application that large.

This I believe goes back to the use of a uniform electrification in the aircraft. Just about everything on the airplane is powered by its generators, including the flight controls hydraulics and other systems. If you start off with that plan for an aircraft like that it would make more sense to install electrothermal anti-ice systems on the wings as opposed to a separate, and dedicated bleed air system.

Fokker 28 MK 100 has leading edge electrical anti ice system.

New contributor
BTG is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • Welcome to Aviation.SE! You should add some details and sources to your answer to improve it. – Squareoot 2 days ago

Your Answer

K Bingham is a new contributor. Be nice, and check out our Code of Conduct.

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.