Innovation in the aerospace industry was a topic of lively discussions at the conference of Michel Dion, leader of the Innovation team, which took place a few weeks ago at Concordia University.
Innovation: the focus of discussions
What will it take for flight to become a mode of daily transportation within and around cities as accessible as cars are now? Michel Dion, leader of the Innovation team at Bell Helicopter, was at Concordia University to discuss with a group of engineering students, professors, and professionals.
According to Mr. Dion’s synopsis of industry trends, we may soon realize this possibility of accessible and automated vertical lift for our daily transportation needs. This could transform our lifestyles, let alone relieve congestion on the ground. The vertical lift industry is changing and adapting for this future and engineering students are already seeing changing opportunities.
Generally, a conservative industry designing specialized vehicles for niche markets, helicopter companies produce in the range of 1000 ships globally each year, often each helicopter being customized significantly within the same family of models. Michel Dion put things into perspective by comparing with the auto industry, another high-tech industry but one with more automation compared to the hands-on aerospace industry.
The leap to massively accessible flight was brought to attention by a company familiar with the auto industry: Uber. Uber’s business model calls for a single model to be specialized for a single mission: transporting people quickly and safely around urban and suburban areas through the air. The biggest challenges are noise and strict safety requirements over densely populated areas for a method of transport that must be reliable in almost any weather. Automation and distributed electric propulsion are some new technologies that could aid in meeting these requirements and transforming vertical lift. Diverse disciplines on the cutting edge of science and engineering such as artificial intelligence must come together with traditional mechanical, aerospace and electrical engineering to solve these problems. There are already several designs and prototypes being built and tested for this futuristic vision.
Mr. Dion finished his inspiring talk by talking about his personal journey to becoming the leader of the Innovation team at Bell Helicopter, starting in science and physics. He says that you must follow your passions and not be afraid to make decisions.