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Aéro Montréal Highlights Sustainability Innovations
  • 28 Jun 2024 10:34 AM
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Aéro Montréal Highlights Sustainability Innovations

By Kenneth I. Swartz
Vertiflite, July/August 2024

Aéro Montréal—a strategic think tank created in 2006 to bring together Québec’s aerospace cluster—held its International Aerospace Innovation Forum at the Palais des congrès de Montréal on May 21–22, two weeks after Forum 80 at the same venue (see “Forum 80: Ideas Earn Their Way,” pg. 26). The biennial event attracted more than 1,200 people from industry, government and academia; it’s Canada’s largest gathering of aerospace decision makers. (Photo above: Québec Premier François Legault announced the creation of the Espace Aéro innovation zone during Aéro Montréal’s International Aerospace Innovation Forum. Author photos.)

This year there were several announcements and presentations that touched on developments in vertical flight, advanced air mobility (AAM) and sustainable aviation in Québec and more broadly Canada. In this regard, Canada can be considered a fast follower of AAM developments in the United States and Europe, which have had better access to venture capital and government funding.

Espace Aéro
The Forum began with the Québec Premier François Legault announcing the creation of the Espace Aéro innovation zone that will focus on the transition to sustainable aviation and intelligent air mobility or autonomy.

The goal of the innovation zone is to have stakeholders from several sectors (e.g., research, innovation, industry and entrepreneurship) grouped and working together to innovate and leverage the sustainable competitive advantages of the region they occupy. The broader goals are to move ideas from the drawing board to the market, attract investments and support the transition to a clean, sustainable economy.

Espace Aéro will have hubs located in Montréal’s Saint-Laurent borough, Mirabel and Longueuil, where many of the region’s leading aerospace companies (e.g., Airbus, Bell Textron Canada, Bombardier, CAE, Héroux-Devtek, H55 Canada and Pratt & Whitney Canada) are based.

The Québec government is contributing C$85M and several corporations—including Pratt & Whitney Canada, Bombardier, Flying Whales Québec and Thales Canada—are making contributions totaling C$90M.

The establishment of Espace Aéro has been a four-year process, with a lot of projects “waiting in the wings” pending the launch.

Boeing’s Wisk Investment
Concurrent with the announcement, Boeing announced a C$240M investment in three key initiatives supporting Québec’s aerospace innovation: C$95M dedicated towards its subsidiary, Wisk Aero; C$110M for a brand-new Aerospace Development Centre in the new Montréal aerospace innovation zone; and C$35M to advanced landing gear research in partnership with Héroux-Devtek.

In August 2022, Wisk announced the establishment of a new engineering hub in Montréal to support the development of its autonomous, passenger-carrying, sixth-generation electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The new investment will reportedly double Wisk’s employment in the Montréal area. The Montréal office is actively recruiting a wide range of aerospace engineering and software professionals.

The C$240M investment is part of Boeing’s Industrial and Technological Benefits commitment to Canada for its purchase of up to 16 Boeing P-8A Poseidon multimission aircraft to replace the current Lockheed CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.

Unither Bioelectronics
At the event, VFS corporate member Unither Bioelectronics (Unither Bioélectronique) Vice President Mikaël Cardinal received the first-ever Aéro Montréal Enterprise Innovation Recognition award for the company’s work using AAM technology to develop an air delivery system for life-saving transplant organs.

In August 2020, the Bromont, Québec-based subsidiary of United Therapeutics (UT) began test flying an EHang EH216 to evaluate its use for organ transfers. In September 2021, Unither Bioelectronics completed the world’s first drone delivery of donor lungs for transplant between two hospitals in Toronto.

Unither Bioelectronics is currently testing a Robinson R44 equipped with a magni350 electric motor and a hydrogen fuel cell as the primary energy source (see “Hydrogen Begins to Take Off,” pg. 66). UT owns the intellectual property of the e-R44 program previously managed by Tier 1 Engineering that was funded by UT subsidiary Lung Biotechnology PBC. Two years ago, the e-R44 flew with a prototype magni250 electric engine in California (see “Tier 1 Engineering Pioneers Electric e-R44,” Vertiflite, July/Aug 2022).

Canadian AAM executives (L-R): Beta, Wisk, Horizon and CAE (the speakers’ names read right to left).
Canadian AAM executives (L-R): Beta, Wisk, Horizon and CAE (the speakers’ names read right to left).

H55
At Aéro Montréal, the Government of Québec also used the occasion to announce its intention to take a stake in Swissbased H55 S.A., whose Canadian subsidiary is established at the Longueuil cluster.

In March, the Government of Canada granted H55 a C$10M interest-free loan under the Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative (ARRI) that will enable the company to make the greater Montréal area its North American development and manufacturing center. H55 is pursuing certification of its Energy Storage System (ESS) by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), to be followed by Transport Canada.

H55 is working with several Québec and Canadian companies, including Pratt & Whitney Canada, CAE and Harbour Air, to provide battery packs and energy-management systems for battery-electric and hybrid-electric aircraft under development.

Harbour Air
Harbour Air of Vancouver, British Columbia, has launched its ePlane conversion program with an order from Bel-Air Aviation of Québec for electric de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver aircraft. A letter of intent (LOI) for three Beaver conversions was signed at the Aéro Montréal forum and highlights the company’s plans to develop a supplemental type certificate (STC) conversion kit for the Beaver and other commercial aircraft.

The eBeaver first flew on Dec. 10, 2019, in Vancouver with a magni500 electric motor and Electric Power Systems (EPS) battery packs. A second eBeaver is now being assembled that is equipped with a 640-kW (850-hp) magni650 electric motor and battery packs made by H55.

In April, Harbour Air signed an LOI with magniX for the purchase of 50 magni650 electric engines. This will help support Harbour Air’s goal of establishing a Sustainable Aviation Hub in Vancouver that will provide electric aircraft conversions and services to third parties.

The magni650 has two physically separated motors; it’s four motors electrically, with four 200-kW inverters. Harbour Air opted for the larger engine to address regulatory requirements for single-electric-engine reliability, such as being single-fault tolerant to a loss of power control (LOPC) event. If the magni650 loses power from one inverter, the pilot can advance the throttle and obtain additional power from the three remaining inverters to maintain sustained flight.

The eBeaver seaplane will make its first airshow appearance in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture (see “Recreational Rotorcraft Progress,” pg. 52), which takes place July 22–28.

INSAT
At the Paris Air Show in June 2023, the Government of Canada announced it was providing a C$350 investment in Canada’s creation of the Initiative for Sustainable Aviation Technology (INSAT), aimed at “accelerating the green industrial transformation of the aerospace industry.”

INSAT’s goal is to establish an industry-led network across Canada on funding collaborative research and development projects in four key technology areas: hybrid and alternative propulsion (with an emphasis on electric powertrains, hybrid-electric propulsion, battery systems and hydrogen fuel cells, and new thermal cycles); aircraft architecture and systems integration; transition to alternative fuels; and aircraft support infrastructure and operations.

Founding members include Bell Canada, Bombardier, CAE, Cert Center Canada, De Havilland Canada and Pratt & Whitney Canada.

In January, VFS member Michel Dion was appointed Director General of INSAT. His background includes senior leadership roles in innovation at Bell Textron Canada, serving as the Bell 505 Flight Test Coordinator Lead, Chief of Flight Technology and Research, and a project leader in research and development.

Grants of up to C$20M are available to fund projects up to three years in duration.

The establishment of Espace Aéro and INSAT is expected to stimulate a lot more Canadian investment in AAM and sustainable aviation in the years to come.

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