During the 2018 CRIAQ technical aerospace forum at the Palais des Congrès, Scott Drennan, Director, Innovation at Bell, and Thomas Prevot, Director of Engineering for Airspace Systems at Uber, hosted a networking event organized by CRIAQ and by AHS Montréal/Ottawa that was attended by more than 500 aerospace professionals and students.
The presentation addressed global efforts to prepare for widespread adoption of vertical flight as a means of daily commuting. We already commonly experience the marvel of flight over long distances for business or vacation, but within the towns and cities we live in we are still travelling on the ground, sometimes in congestion. This can eat up our time and take up urban space. “Who wants to spend more time with their family, who wants to spend more time doing what they love?” asked Scott Drennan.
Scott argued that vertical flight technology such as distributed propulsion, hybrid engines and new batteries are becoming increasingly efficient and that they are becoming viable for this transportation revolution. He explained some of the many scenarios that have been examined regarding emergency alternatives and redundancy in the event of failure, the efficiency-versus-weight ratio of the different propulsion system configurations, the certification standard, considerations for noise impacts, and mass production for low-cost manufacturing technologies. Automation will also play a role and according to Scott, automation in the air should increase safety and pose fewer challenges than widespread on-ground automation. “I’ve seen children these days pick up old photo albums and swipe the pictures. Within their lifetimes their reality could be that it is normal to get in a flying vehicle, enter the destination and press go without any worries.”
Vertical flight technology traditionally presents challenging problems of its own. It is difficult to exceed the energy efficiency of trains, metros and cars since it is generally more energy efficient to roll on the ground than fly through the air. As urban and suburban space becomes more precious and there is not enough space to practically meet the demands of personal ground transport, personal vertical lift vehicles could find a home and it’s up to the vertical flight industry to join with technology innovators such as Uber to meet these demands. This joining of companies that traditionally have produced products such as Bell, with ones that have produced platforms to organize rides such as Uber, could merge to create a package centered on the experience.
Text by Matthew Gruber – Montreal Ottawa Chapter Officer
Photos from CRIAQ – www.criaq.aero