“It is a little bit of the Jetsons for many people who are maybe looking at this for the first time,” said Helijet International President & CEO Danny Sitnam.
Helijet is among a group of tech and aerospace industry experts called the Canadian Air Advanced Mobility Consortium (CAAM) starting work to bring the technology to Canada, possibly providing another option for Vancouver Island residents to get on and off the island.
“2025 is not unrealistic to possibly see these vehicles starting to come to your neighbourhood and flying in the community,” said Sitnam.
The aircraft work a lot like drones, running on electricity or hydrogen, which makes them much more environmentally-friendly.
“It’s trying to move our aviation industry, into an area of sustainability, we put out large carbon footprints we know, as Helijet we know the footprints we put out there we burn a lot of gasolines and fossil fuels and we need to move away from that,” said Sitnam.
The technology is also much more cost-effective than the current fleet of helicopters and airplanes.
“They’re imagining the cost being similar to a ground vehicle today so if you want to go to Langley it could be a $30 or $40 ticket but you’re flying there in 10 minutes,” said Sitnam.
Instead of strictly using heliports or runways, the eVTOL aircraft, which would be piloted, could access “vertiports” on top of hospitals, transit hubs or even parkades.
Among the team that includes Helijet, Translink, Vancouver International Airport and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation is the University of Victoria.
“[We’re] looking into flight safety as well as doing some of the early stages of research for some of the technologies that would be required on these aircraft,” said Jay Matlock, Operations Manager for Uvic’s Centre for Aerospace Research.
The UVic team has already been testing out ‘sense and avoid’ technology so the aircraft can detect other aircraft and avoid them It’s just one of many safety features they’re working on.
When the Urban Air Mobility technology is introduced to British Columbia it will likely start in a first responder or air ambulance role before it gets put into commercial and even private use in the future.