Québec aerospace industry reaffirms its global leadership
Aéro Montréal is a strategic consultation group that links major decision makers in Québec’s aerospace sector, including companies, educational and research institutions, as well as associations and unions. Aéro Montréal’s mission is to engage Québec's aerospace cluster with a view to increasing its growth and expansion on the global scene. Its vision is to become the global aerospace point of reference. To this end, it champions the following values: excellence, commitment, collaboration, integrity, agility and audacity. AÉRO Montreal’s cluster of Aerospace companies dominate the Canadian market; 70% of all aerospace R&D comes from the Montreal area, and 80% of Montreal’s Aerospace products and services are exported. These facts are what make Montreal a powerhouse in the industry, and why opportunities to attend such an innovation forum are so valuable – being at the forefront of innovation for Canada.
In April 2018, Aéro Montréal launched its 6th annual Aerospace Innovation Forum under the theme “Aerospace in the Era of Disruptive Technologies.” This year, more than 1,000 Canadian and international aerospace representatives attended this major event, which was held at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, and organized in collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC).
FrontLine attended the event for an in-depth view of one of the largest Aerospace Innovation Forums in North America. This included interviews and experiences from the largest and most influential companies presenting and hosting. Between the audience and presenters on stage, AÉRO Montréal was driving innovation on a scale that can only be described as colossal. From cabinet ministers on innovation (the Honourable Navdeep Singh Bains), to the challenges related to partnerships and competition, to disruptive technologies – each panel was well worth the trip. Two of these presentations drew nearly every single member in attendance, Uber Elevate’s Dr. Tom Prevot, Director Uber Airspace Systems, and TransPod’s CEO and Co-Founder Sebastien Gendron.
Uber, which started out in 2009 with a mission to make transportation easier, currently operates in 77 countries, and boasts over 10,000 rides on a daily basis, is now looking to the skies. UBER Airspace Systems is developing the future Uber Elevate network of vertical take-off and landing aircraft. Director Tom Prevot’s presentation related to this newest iteration of rideshare for major cities, was a big draw at Aéro Montreal. He talked about how Uber will be ready for piloted test flights in about two years in the San Francisco area. Partnering with companies like Bell Helicopters, Uber will utilize a “drone-like” technology to transport people, using technology similar to the Bell Boeing V22 rather than a plane or conventional rotary wing helicopter. The company plans to utilize existing infrastructure like parking garages and building roof tops as take-off and landing pads. This reality is not so far-fetched as once thought, and you may soon see UBER Elevate in your own neighbourhood.
Still in the transportation theme, Toronto-based TransPod Inc. presented a highly aggressive and disruptive technology to redefine mass transit. Frictionless air movers have been theorized since 1910, however lacked the technological advancements to make that dream a reality. Today, the potential for high-speed transport is very achievable, as Sebastien Gendron’s presentation showed. The tube infrastructure is designed using specialized materials that can handle the stress applied by such velocity, as well as the immense diameter required. In what can be summed up as a hyper speed train sealed inside a vacuum, removing the air friction allows it to operate like a cabin under pressure that could potentially be shot through a tube at incredible speeds – reducing travel time on the ground from hours into minutes. Approaching speeds of 1,200 kms/hr, there are several challenges to overcome, challenges the Italian government believes are being met with precision, and furthermore, would bet $20,000,000 on. Italy has proceeded with the funding in support of TransPod, who will be moving forward in that region with prototyping, as Gendron also proposes the same ideas to Canada, specifically from Montreal to Toronto. Now, on to the next challenge, building an engine that operates with no airflow, possibly a magnetic motor.
One of the smaller, but rapidly expanding, companies that I had the privilege of interacting with at the event is M1 Composites Technology. Having heard their name in different conversations throughout the conference, I sat down with President Lorenzo Marandola. M1 drives its business on integrity, information sharing, and innovation in commercial and military environments. Based in Laval, Quebec, this Canadian company has been expanding into the U.S. and has some key military contracts with the DoD. It is now looking to leverage that success to grow its military work in Canada. Priding themselves on being a “one-stop shop” that delivers quality above all, it becomes an economically more viable alternative solution for large companies searching for innovative solutions for repair and reverse engineering. M1 specializes in engineering, manufacturing and repair of composite and sheet metal structures. M1 Composites is FrontLine’s pick for a Company to Watch.
Airbus, Bombardier and Ernst & Young were lead partners of the 2018 Aerospace Innovation Forum. Attendees took part in activities that included plenaries, conferences, workshops and B2B meetings and other networking events. Many of the major aerospace companies participated, such as Airbus, Bell, Boeing, Bombardier, CAE, Embraer, GE Aviation, L-3 MAS, NASA, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, and Uber. “More than 1,400 business meetings between Québec SMEs and world-class OEMs [were] arranged during the Forum,” says Suzanne M. Benoit, President of Aéro Montreal. “Since its launch in 2013, the Forum has multiplied business opportunities leading to the signing of international agreements.”
“Thanks to the Forum, we can count on a special platform to explore, together, how disruptive technologies are impacting aerospace innovation and other sectors of the economy,” said Fassi Kafyeke, Innovation Forum Co-Chair and Senior Director of Strategic Technology and Innovation at Bombardier. “The Forum is focusing on six areas that have the biggest potential for changing our sector: advanced manufacturing; additive manufacturing; clean technologies; big data for mobility, aviation and space; autonomous vehicles; on-demand mobility; and, finally, virtual design and testing.”
In addition to the conference, International Aerospace Week - Montréal 2018 included many other events with various ecosystem partners. They included Vitrines 2018, which aimed to underscore to the public the many career opportunities available in the industry. A luncheon organized in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, on the theme “In search of talent, the aerospace industry is mobilizing to create the future!” concluded the week-long event.
– Adrian Obst