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Innovation Forum Explores the Cutting-Edge Aviation Tech

Inaugural event presented what the industry’s future will look like

By Randy Dufault

July 24, 2018 - Adam Warmoth expressed his view of the future very succinctly when he said, “There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we think about transportation.”

Warmoth, Uber Elevate vehicle requirements lead, articulated what that shift looks like Tuesday morning during the inaugural Lindbergh Foundation Innovation Forum at Aviation Gateway Park.

Speaking to a standing room-only crowd, Warmoth shared the stage with Dr. Pat Anderson from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Mike Sennett of Boeing. His presentation was part of the first of three hours filled with talks from leaders of industry and academia regarding the technological shifts now occurring in aviation, along with the shifts that need to occur, and the path to lift the transportation system to its next level, whatever that may be.

In a presentation titled “From the Spirit of St. Louis to Avatar,” Pat started by comparing the basic shape of the Spirit with a modern, single-engine airplane. Noting that it takes very little imagination to morph the pictures together after 91 years of technological development, he postulated that future aircraft must change in order to meet up-and-coming transportation needs.

“Bolting [new propulsion systems] on to existing airframes is not ideal,” he said.

Sennett, a key part of Boeing’s 787 development effort, described the tremendous amount of technological advancement the company poured into the project.

A key feature is the complete shift to high-power electrical systems and the elimination of pneumatics as a way to operate every portion of the aircraft. The effort allowed for substantially better control, better monitoring, and better economy. In the process, Boeing learned a tremendous amount about the integration of high-power electrical systems, knowledge that’s valuable for the coming shift to electric propulsion.

As Boeing’s vice president for product strategy and future airplane development, Sennett is considering the business cases for how the company can satisfy the expected world need for more than 42,000 new commercial airplanes over the next 20 years.

Adam made the case for how Uber expects to shift a portion of the urban mobility problem to the third dimension. Using a model consisting of three-hour blocks of time between full charge cycles, his company believes the service could truly alter the way people move in the world’s constantly growing cities.

Uber is collaborating with a number of aircraft manufacturers to develop Elevate vehicles. According to Warmoth, they are on track to begin service demonstrations in 2020 and make it publicly available in 2023.

Topics for the second hour centered on new technologies including batteries, advanced control systems, and 3D printing.

The final hour concentrated on the topic of reimagining the aircraft.

According to Lindbergh Foundation Chairman John Peterson, Tuesday's forum is the first in a series his organization expects to conduct at aviation events around the world.

“We are at this cusp of technology where Moore’s law and computing power has really changed the game in terms of what can actually fly,” said Erik Lindbergh, grandson to Charles Lindbergh who is the namesake of the foundation. “We are at a time when the financial markets are pouring money into [air] taxis for example, and the FAA sees it coming.”

He went on to say that EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is an ideal place where the foundation could create the container to really talk about the coming changes, help people come up with new solutions, and bring the right resources to bear.

The foundation will post videos of all forum presentations, along with extended interviews of the presenters, on its website: Lindbergh.aero.