Revolution.Aero Dublin 2023 – As it happened
One day down and one to go at Revolution.Aero Dublin 2023.
We have a packed agenda across the final day at the Westin Hotel, tackling the issues facing future mobility. Please check back here throughout the event for updates and highlights from the sessions.
Dean Donovan, DiamondStream Partners: “There is a perception in the investment community that airlines aren’t good to invest. It is not necessarily true, I know I started an airline.”
“If you look at the index cost to fly from air versus the ground, since 1980 the cost to fly has fallen by 59%. That is pretty impressive. Automotive has only fallen by 23%. Over the same time aviation has grown from about 10% of the size of automotive to about 30% — we are kicking back.”
George Alafinov, Jekta said: “Water requires little infrastructure. Which in regions, such as Indonesia or India, where you might not have the finance to invest in airports or other traditional infrastructure can be very useful.”
“There are about 1,000 seaplanes around the world in traditional markets like US, Canada and Europe. The reality is each of those aircraft are land-based aircraft, which are 40-50 years old, that have been adapted to operate on the water using floaters and are very expensive and outdated designs.”
Billy Thalheimer, REGENT said: “When we looked at flying machines on the water we saw three major challenges: One is the wave tolerance, I want to know I can take off and land whatever the sea state is. Second is the takeoff sequence, you basically need a clear runway space on the water to takeoff and land. Busy cities that you want to serve also have the busiest harbours. Number three is the safe of these systems, especially wing-in-ground effect, in the past have been very dangerous. The hydrofoils solve those first two problems. We want to be a boat in the harbour and an aircraft in the sky.”
Grant Newman, Elroy Air said: “The demand for rapid logistics is outpacing the infrastructure.”
“After about 15 minutes of forward flight the Chaparral’s [Elroy’s autonomous cargo hVTOL] hybrid system will fully recharge the battery, removing the need for any ground charging infrastructure.”
Patrick Buckles, BETA Technologies said: “As far as the baseline of getting an electric aircraft into commercial service, I think you will start to see this from 2025. For BETA, we received a license to start a commercial revenue cargo service out of Dubai next year. I think that [cargo] is where we will see the first use cases.”
“There is a lot we don’t see until it gets into an operator’s hands.”
“During testing last year, using a Cessna Caravan as our chaser aircraft, when we landed after a 155 mile flight it cost us $17 to charge up our aircraft and it was $700 to refuel the Caravan for the same flight.”
Andy Blundell, Close Brothers said: “Although we are excited to be part of the journey, we are still a bank and a bank likes to get the money back that it lends against. AAM is not yet generating the revenues that we need to see. I think that in the short-to-medium-term most of the capital will continue to come from investors and equity rather than a bank.”
“Technology could begin to move so fast that it poses the risk of built in obsolescence, because something comes out better than that aircraft before the lease is up.”
Tim Chun-hing Li, Ascend by Cirium said: “Traditionally combustion engines retain about 80% of the value. On an eVTOL, driven by motors, this part of the aircraft is not worth much at all. So how do we ascertain the residual value of these aircraft? It takes a different approach.”
Michael Halaby, MUFG Bank said: “You need some level of liquidity. For those in aviation finance i think we have to look at this sector slightly differently. We are looking at $1-$4m in value, so we cannot apply the same principles that you would to a narrow or wide body aircraft.”
“I suspect to begin you will look at the quality of the contract. How long does that contract last, does it match to the lease terms or life of the asset in question. There is a probably a bit of a distinction between the OEMs who are vertically integrated versus someone who is producing aircraft and selling on to an independent user.”
James McMicking, Zeroavia said: “If we don’t tackle sustainable solutions for aviation we are not going to be allowed to fly anymore. We feel passionately that this is our purpose. It is not just about CO2, it is about all the other emissions that come with aviation — contrails, particulates, nitrous oxides etc.
“Any alternative to hydrogen that is combusting fuel is leading to emissions that we want to avoid. With hydrogen you also improve efficiency of the engines, on our first applications our engines will be more than twice as efficient as the turbines they are replacing.”
Alison Wyrick, Honeywell said: “We have a lot to prove, especially in terms of passenger acceptance of autonomy. But we all work in the business of behaviour change, every human on this planet finds themselves with desire to change a behaviour either in themselves or somebody else – possibly several times a day.”
Christophe Lapierre, Luxaviation said: “In the crawl, walk and run phase we have to understand the safety we are talking about means deploying existing capabilities and adapting and implementing new capabilities incrementally.”
Julie Garland, Avtrain said: “With the levels of autonomy you will see in these aircraft, we have to change how we consider who can pilot them. We cannot just take fixed-wing and helicopter pilots and retrain them, we need to think of these new pilots as VTOL pilots and consider new pathways for attracting talent.”
Stella Hughes, CAE said: “One of the things we announced recently was a virtual reality simulator, where you are able to put on goggles and enter a synthetic environment. Old graphics were fine if a pilot was only going to fly from one pristine airport to another, but eVTOL pilots are going to be operating at much lower altitudes in much more complex environments.
“We are looking at training more like a mission rehearsal rather than stick handling.”
David Stepanek, Bristow Group said: “Our vision is to be an innovator in flight solutions. Typically we want to be an innovator in vertical flight solutions. We believe these aircraft can expand our offering and subsidise some of our current services.”
“Our thinking is our current customers are natural AAM customers initially,” says Stepanek. “You always start slow, you didn’t figure out lateral control and start United Airlines. One of the hardest things you can do is launch a startup in the aviation business. It is still hard enough to certify a conventional aircraft.”
Chris Brown, KPMG said: “You can’t have an operational efficiency without some aspect of decarbonisation today.”
“In terms of the overall energy mix we need to be realistic. So you’re only getting really a couple of percentage points off that kerosene demand using electric and hydrogen by 2050.”
Paul Kennedy, Irish Aviation Authority said: “A U Space enables a lot of UAS drone operations to take place within a certain airspace. Allowing competitors and multiple operators to operate safety and securely.”
Chris Kucera, OneSky said: “You have a route and you build a tube around it basically and if you deconflict these tubes you are not going to hit each other, but it means you have to stick to the flight plan. Before that it was procedural.”
Jef Geudens, Skyports said: “Take a collision avoidance system, if you get in that position you have already messed up. The whole focus should be on strategic affliction and separation.”
Tom Anderson, Archer Aviation said: “United Airlines is a FAR Part 121 major US airline. We have a multifaceted relationship with United. They are purchasing aircraft, they are an investor in Archer and have spent a lot of time working with us on operational methodologies. We are also beginning to get into where we are going to deploy the aircraft, such at the Chicago O’Hare route.”
Jim Lockheed, JetBlue Ventures said: “SAF is the most tangible and easy example of sustainable investment. If you can make SAF anywhere close to parity with jet fuel, in 5-10 years’ time you have a $280bn per year market that will buy as much as you can produce.”
Early stage investment means different things to different people. Nichola Bates, Boeing said: “We are interested in how to support those early stage founders and invigorate that ecosystem. And when we are talking early stage, the earliest stage we invested in was six weeks after the firm was incorporated — not much further than the idea stage. We are typically looking at the less $1m pre-seeded seed stage.”
Edward Espiritu, United Airlines Ventures said: “We’ve launched the first sustainable flight fund, $100m raised. So we are still trying to focus and be bullish on sustainable investment opportunities in the aerospace sector.
“On whether investments need an element of decarbonisation to be successful: The short answer is probably.”
Russel Vickers, Future Mobility Campus Ireland said: “We are a testbed for future mobility. Having a partner like Shannon Airport Group is key for us in trying to create a playground for future mobility to test within.”
John Drysdale, Shannon Airport Group: “Innovation is very important for a regional airport like ourselves.
“As an airport operator we also work with the business aviation community. We see a major stream of traffic to the west coast of Ireland in the summer. We see eVTOL aircraft filling the niche of airport to final destination travel, replacing the role of helicopters.”
Brad Miller, Ferrovial Vertiports said: “The biggest rock in the bucket from our perspective is demand, demand, demand.”
“Where will the first network of commercially viable networks be? We think the honest answer to that is that no one really knows at this point.”
Clem Newton-Brown, Skyportz said: “If all you are doing is flying from airport to helipad. You’ve got a quiet nice helicopter but you are revolutionising mobility. The real revolution comes on the ground and in the infrastructure you build there.
“I think the backbone of this whole industry has to be existing airports and helipads. But to get to the actual revolution it is about building a final array of new sites that can be activated.”
Duncan Walker, Skyports said: “We firmly believe building vertiports is the way to go. We built the worlds first vertiport in Singapore in 2019, the second in California last year and the third in Paris last year too. These are all active testbeds. You don’t learn anything unless you’ve built vertiports and tested them.”
Joshua Stewart, BAE Systems said: “I actually work right now in the control and avionics solutions area and also work in our power and propulsion area. When it comes to looking at battery technology there has been a long history with us working with that. What we see in this space is an expectation of performance that in many cases is still looking for a cell that is still future.
Fleur Cox, Rolls-Royce Electrical said: “In terms of customers, theres two types we consider here. We are developing both hybrid and full-electric capabilities, as well as SAF and hydrogen.
“There is the customer who is another OEM and then there is the flying customer. If you look at our markets around large jet engines, we are used to having Airbus and Boeing as our customers and the likes of American Airlines and British Airways. What is key to us is that our flying customer’s experience is consistent. With batteries in particular it is really important. They will be seen as a new commodity in future aircraft.”
Richard Charlton, Electro.Aero said: “You cant generally taxi and aircraft up to a charger. And when charging with particular energy levels you cannot put that much power through the cable. That’s why we focus on powerful, portable chargers that can be brought right to the aircraft.
“It is essential for the industry that we can delivery rapid charging times. E.g. 15 minutes for an eVTOL and 30 minutes for a fixed wing.”
Balkiz Sarihan, Airbus Urban Mobility said: “CityAirbus NextGen is looking to enter feeder markets where it is complimentary where it fills the gap in the current technology. When we look at the full portfolio of Airbus, here we are able to fill a tech gap. She will also be the first fully-electric aircraft we bring to market.”
“We haven’t signed any LoIs, that is not our intention. It is really to choose people work with, wh have the same long term vision. There will be people who continue to be first, people who continue to be inspired and inject funding and in the end that helps all of us. But for us it is about finding who is going to make the compromise to align on the same timeframe. If we were to partner with someone who wants to be the first then we have a mismatch from the off.”
Seyed Mohseni, ARC Aerosystems said: “There are a lot of data points that could be shared with others and possibly be made generic across the industry.”
“There is all of this new data we are going to receive from these new technologies. Big data. But how do you analyse that data and churn out the right result?”
Patrick Buckles, BETA Technologies said: “We have heard from a lot of panels today that a lot of things needed to be thought about differently. When you look at use cases, some are drop in solutions but I’d say 90% are proving new use cases. OEMs need to have an engaged process with the customer throughout. You can swing the operating cost of your aircraft by 15% just by how you use the battery.”
Mark Leach, Bird & Bird said: “When you look at the European Commission’s data strategy, out of that is coming a lot of legislation regulating just about every aspect of operational, non-personal data. The draft data act is legislating for a very open approach to data where if you are putting a connected product into the market you will be legally obliged to make sure it is designed in such a way that the data collected from the use of that product is available in real time for the user. And that user is also free to share that data with third parties.”
On second-mover advantage, Matthew Sattler, Supernal said: “The industrial scale of Hyundai becomes an incredibly powerful tool as we scale the business, but for us to get all the facets ready to support the eVTOL business takes time, however this allows us to enter the market at scale. The other big reason is it gives us the chance to observe and learn. When you are not trying to make the certification policy, but instead follow it, that immediately makes things easier.”
Gustavo Semararo, Lobo Leasing said: “I think to model power-by-hour or lease-by-hour is quite challenging. To start doing that you probably need to go the owner and ask them if they want to sell their aircraft by the hour as well.”
James Greenstreet, Falko said: “We are all slightly dancing in the dark, but it will be nothing like getting an A380 residual value wrong.”
Jaspal Jandu, LCI said: “We need just as much financial innovation as we do technical innovation. You’re getting into equipment lease financing, separate battery charging models, you may even have subscription leasing models like Tesla or Volvo.
“You can influence payload rage and operating characteristics but you’re not the OEM. What we are trying to get over to the OEM are our needs for the aircraft.”
Marc Tembleque Vilalta, Avolon said: “We are able to connect very efficiently what the OEM is doing with a real use case. We have the ability to bring the profit to market through a commercial channel. We a very quickly sot use cases and bring them back to the manufacturer. And that actually helps shape what the aircraft looks like. Without the need for them to hire a commercial team to do so.”
Bobby Healey, Manna said: “You have to have a focus on unit economics now so when the race starts you are the healthiest competitor. Also the investment world still does not believe in our space. They want to see rational economics on the unit and capital levels more than ever before. If you talk about how cool it is or changing the world you will have a challenge to sell. Unit economics is your truth protector. “
Tine Tomazic, Pipistrel said: “Why are we not utilising the underused infrastructure out there? I think the operators in this very large market will have to embrace that there is no one solution that fits each use case. We have to look at a portfolio of vehicles some VTOL, some runway to runway. Hybrids, hydrogen hybrids, battery hybrids — each shines in their own way.
Darryl Swanson, EA Maven said: “We see that RAM is probably going to be bigger than UAM on a global basis. UAM will be huge but RAM will offer more locations.”
Claudio Camelier, Heart Aerospace said: “The market around the globe is diverse, airlines need the flexibility that a pure battery electric airplane cannot provide. Although 19-seater airplanes have been very common on regional routes in the past. Now passengers expect a minimum level of comfort, so we are developing into the ES-30. It has 200km electric range and up to 800km, depending on the payload, of hybrid range. Meaning it is capable of flying short sections on battery only. It is also useful when in the airport to operate with zero emissions.”
James Dorris, Odys Aviation said: “The secondary airport to secondary airport is definitely under-serviced. But we think one of the big unlocks is VTOL capabilities, this allows you to get to passengers in the centre of cities. There are people who won’t use regional because of the time on the ground.
Nick Rogers, Kinect Air said: “If you take the US, 70% of all domestic traffic goes through 30 airports. They have over 500 pieces of tarmac free. We need to create a decentralised network. That is why we are providing the worlds first instantly bookable priced flights from secondary airport to secondary airport.
“Whats the next step? For us it has always been hybrid. We need to be able to serve the customer base we have created. Thermoelectric makes most sense. You need to have that thermal range extension in order to compete with aircraft today.”
Andre Stein, Eve Air Mobility said: “I wouldn’t say first mover, but being one of the pioneers, I see an advantage in that. We need to get it right, not everything on day one, but we are talking hundreds of millions worth of investment, so you can’t be too far off. Getting the right customers and partners in the market are the biggest opportunities for pioneers.”
Andrew MacMillan, Vertical Aerospace said: “I think there is much work for regulators still to do. Operations are also a challenge, I definitely get the sense that even in the last 12 months it has got a lot more real. Real cities, real flights, real infrastructure like air traffic control.”
Paul-Franck Bijou, Lilium said: “The ground segment is probably the toughest, because as the OEM we are in control of the whole chain. But on the ground we are working with many independent players and getting all of them to come together is challenging.”
Izzy Ishak, Bristow Group said: “Definitely now the biggest challenge is certification. How to operate the aircraft and most importantly how to build a commercial application for the aircraft.”
Dirk Hoke, Volocopter said: “First of all we have to deliver on promises. The biggest challenge now are the details, the details of routes, emergency landing points, ground operations etc.. There are a lot of details when you go into real operational planning.”
“It’s around 450 days to the Olympics, we will certify second quarter of next year. We have everything in place, but it is still super tight on the schedule. Right now it looks like we can make it.”
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical Aerospace said: “We need to be really focused on what we invest in and partner with the best companies globally for everything else. Powertrain is where we focused, but now for almost everything else we are partnering with tier 1 aerospace suppliers. Not just on certification but also thinking about manufacturing too.”
Jay Carmel, Oliver Wyman said: “There are some obvious gaps: Supply chain structures, third party MRO, fleet lifecycle management, training and infrastructure to name a few. There is a lot of work still to be done and an acceptance from the startups and traditional aerospace world that collaboration is needed for progression is a key part of that.”
Sergio Cucetta, SMG Consulting said: “One of the things i hope I never hear again is this is the second coming of the VLJ market. That was a cake with a different ingredient, this is a new kind of food entirely.”
“Our estimation is that the top 15 still needed $2.5 to $4bn to enter into service. We don’t see consolidation in the future, we see failures. Followed by IP and talent grab.”
Joshua Ng, Alton Aviation Consultancy, said: “It takes a village to raise a kid, and so it takes an ecosystem to raise and maintain AAM. From an infrastructure perspective, if we want to scale up we need more integration between the ground, air and the vehicle itself.”
Dr Stephan Baur, Roland Berger, said: “Currently AAM is at the trough of disillusionment: After the SPAC-craze, investor realism is kicking in. Is it too good to be true? UAM needs to deliver on the promises it has made to investors.”
Declan Fitzpatrick, Irish Aviation Authority, said: “Revolution Aero great title, I initially thought evolution, but if you think about how far we have come it truly is a revolution.
“We are in the fourth aviation revolution and it is coming at us quick.”