Revolution.Aero’s Uplift: A Week Where Decades Happen
There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen, said Lenin, in the context of a completely different revolution.
But next week, these words will ring true. At Revolution.Aero Global 2020, which kicks off on Tuesday, December 8th, the unique theme of the day is ‘Advanced Air Mobility’. On December 9th we have ‘Alternative Power & Sustainable Aviation’, and December 10th is ‘Business Aviation and Investing in the Revolution’.
It is all part of the Fourth Aviation Revolution, which will look at how drones, battery technology, hydrogen and vehicle architectures will shape the future of urban and regional travel.
What to expect from on-demand sessions at Revolution.Aero Global 2020:
Why it is too early to write-off jet aviation
Whether the future is hybrid-electric, hydrogen or another type of propulsion, panellists Dean Donovan, DiamondStream Partners, Neil Cloughley, Faradair, Kevin Noertker, Ampaire, Eric Bartsch, VerdeGo Aero and Andrew Patton, ZeroAvia said there is a resiliency to technology change in the industry.
VerdeGo Aero’s Bartsch said: “The liquid fuel industry is moving away from fossil fuels towards more renewable fuels. Batteries are not advancing as fast as any of us want them to, but it is an opportunity in the long term. And hydrogen offers the potential for low emissions and attractive energy densities. All of these have a place, and they will serve many different market segments.”
Bartsch said there would not be one solution going forward, but rather many different ones. Ampaire’s Noertker also stressed the importance of scaling up the technologies used in initial commercially operated aircraft in order to reach regional mobility levels.
ZeroAvia’s Patton said the issues with energy-to-weight ratio in electrically powered aircraft would mean they could only travel shorter distances to begin with. “In terms of battery electric power, there will be niche applications such as UAM where you have short hops and frequent charging,”he said.
“If you’re starting out designing an aircraft around batteries right now, it leads you down a very interesting path from a flexibility standpoint. But the risk is whether there will be batteries that can complete the missions that your customers want,”said Bartsch. “Having an aircraft that is designed around the mission and future proofed is going to be orders of magnitude easier if that aircraft starts with the hybrid thought process.”
Is it too early to write-off jet aviation? While there are many solutions out there, Patton said we would be refining jet fuel for many decades to come. “It is an evolutionary industry and we will get there,”he said.
Universal Hydrogen – leveraging the existing network to distribute hydrogen
About 80% of the air travel market will be powered by hydrogen in 10 years, said Jason Chua, chief operating officer and co-founder, Universal Hydrogen.
“I think hydrogen will be pretty widespread. 10 years from now we should see the next generation single-aisle products and if everything goes as we hope, those should be hydrogen aircraft. If you can do regional aircraft and anything smaller, that’s about 80% of the air travel market, if not more than that.”
One of the main issues with hydrogen adoption is caused by the lack of distribution, according to Chua. With aviation fuel, it took decades and about a trillion dollars – a number investors (even if they have the money) are not willing to spend on hydrogen. So, Universal is planning to use the existing intermodal freight network infrastructure to distribute hydrogen, said Chua.
“Aviation is a very difficult industry to decarbonise. However, we still have to do the work. And hydrogen is the fuel that makes the most sense. It’s light, it’s affordable and the only thing holding it back is the lack of distribution infrastructure.
“If you are going to do something, hydrogen seems like the right thing to do.”
Good things come in small packages
Kay Wackwitz, founder and CEO of market research company, Drone Industry Insights, has likened the transformation of how many of us work, from face-to-face to face-to-screen, forced by Covid-19 to the growth taking place in the drone delivery market.
Drone deliveries were already most effective in places with no infrastructure and jammed infrastructure, according to Wackwitz. But this has now extended to infrastructure under lockdown.
“Drones give access to bring goods to place where there was no access before. And this market will grow at a rate of just under 14% compound annual growth rate[CAGR]in the next five years. The commercial drone space will grow from $22bn in 2020 to $43bn in 2025,”he said.
The Hamburg-based CEO points to a new digital momentum in the way we work, accelerated by Covid-19. A restructuring around technology is taking place and he says the case for the commercial drone space is no different.
However, the applications of drone deliveries will go beyond the pandemic – proving effective for emergency medical services through a “decentralised network for logistics so you can connect all hospitals of the city”.
Considerations for ground-based charging and overall energy needs
Brett Oakleaf, strategic partnership development manager, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), said: “The market for AAM – flying taxis, drones – is predicted to grow rapidly to $1.5trn globally by 2040. I think that may even go higher as we see the dramatic introduction of a lot of new technologies. Driving this are trends in the advancement of autonomous vehicles, more economical, lighter and heavier density batteries and advanced manufacturing techniques.”
However, the aviation industry is “bestowed with a lot of challenges” at present, said Oakleaf. Some of these include electrification of vehicles, automation, which can create cyber vulnerabilities, economic threats and the rising number of power outages forcing some airports to consider going off-grid.
Using eSTOL aircraft for advanced air mobility
Marc Ausman, CEO and co-founder, Airflow.aero, indicated there are potentially thousands of locations across the US which could accommodate a 300ft runway needed for eSTOL (electric Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft.
In five cities across the US there were 22,000 possible rooftop locations that could spatially accommodate a 300ft runway. New York has 5,700; Los Angeles has 6,200; Boston has 2,500; whilst Dallas and Chicago both offered 3,800.
Ausman noted a range of factors, such as the building’s structural integrity, could mean that a runway is not possible. However, even if just 1% were feasible, that would be mean dozens of new eSTOL runways in major cities along with those that already exist.
“Certainly, there are enough runways to support hundreds of eSTOL aircraft,” concluded Ausman.
What is happening on Tuesday, 8th December?
11.05 ET Opening remarks
Robert Courts MP, UK Secretary of State for Aviation and Maritime
11.55 ET State of the Union Address
Cyrus Sigari, UP.Partners
12.35 ET Are we dreaming about Vertiports?
Which will be ready first – aircraft or infrastructure?
Charging electric aircraft
Working with cities
Moderator: Darrell Swanson, Swanson Aviation
Lawrence Blakeley, Verical Aerospace
Will Fanshawe, Halo Aviation
Youssef Hamadi, Uber Elevate
Cameron Spencer, Flutr
13.10 ET Fireside chat: FAA perspective
Steve Dickson, FAA
13.35 ET Volocopter: Launching Urban Air Mobility
Christian Bauer, Volocopter
13.50 ET Community Acceptance and Equity
Megan Prichard, Uber Elevate
14.10 ET The personal take-off
David Mayman, Jetpack Aviation
14.25 ET Hyundai’s role in creating the future of mobility
Adam Slepian, Hyundai Urban Air Mobility Division