From green planes to flying taxis, the aerospace industry is stepping on the accelerator

From green planes to flying taxis, the aerospace industry is stepping on the accelerator
From green planes to flying taxis, the aerospace industry is stepping on the accelerator

The government of François Legault officially launched Tuesday, in the greater region metropolitan area, Espace Aero, a fourth dedicated innovation zone, this time, in aerospace. The starving years of the pandemic seem very far behind for this industry. In full growth, it has set itself ambitious objectives, particularly in decarbonization, and it is not skimping on the means to achieve them.

While in 2022, the Quebec aerospace industry returned to its pre-COVID revenues, its number of jobs grew by 12% in 2023, to reach 41,700. At the same time, its revenues increased by 16%, to arriving at nearly $20.9 billion. It is also the industry that exports the most in Quebec: while it previously accounted for around 10% of Quebec exports, it reached 13.5% in 2023.

“People have resumed traveling, aircraft orders are increasing and order books are full: for certain models, we even have to wait ten years before they are delivered,” says Mélanie Lussier, President and CEO of Aéro Montréal, Quebec’s aerospace cluster.

Towards green aviation

At the same time, the aerospace industry has committed to being carbon neutral in 2050, so it has major challenges to meet. She works on it using different strategies. The easiest way is to opt for more sustainable fuels, SAF (sustainable aviation fuel). They are produced, for example, with forest residues and they are mixed with traditional fuel to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Another solution is to change the shape of the planes. “By making planes more triangular, we reduce wind resistance, therefore we reduce fuel consumption,” explains the CEO of Aéro Montréal.

We are also tackling the engines. “This is what produces the most GHGs, so the development of new engines is super important to achieve significant gains,” says Mélanie Lussier. We are seeking to electrify the propulsion, or part of the propulsion. »

Mme Lussier mentions Pratt & Whitney, the largest investor in aerospace research and development in Canada, which is working on its hybrid-electric flight demonstrator to improve fuel efficiency by 30%.

Reducing the environmental impact of the industry as much as possible is one of the major priorities of the Quebec Aerospace Research and Innovation Consortium (CRIAQ).

“Several of our research projects carried out by different partners attempt to reduce GHG emissions from aircraft or to make manufacturing greener, for example with the processes, parts and materials used,” explains Guillaume Côté, president and CEO. of CRIAQ. This organization includes around 160 members from businesses, research and training establishments.

New types of mobility

Another CRIAQ priority is advanced air mobility, such as drones and flying taxis. “We are more in the long term here,” says Mr. Côté.

These developments are important in the eyes of Mélanie Lussier. “We need to think about mobility in another way to achieve short-distance transport,” she says. Some of these electric vehicles that take off and land vertically will be autonomous. “We are still testing the technology,” she explains. But for those who will have a pilot, the technology is ready, we have reached certification and Montreal is good at that. »

She also points out that these machines fly at 700 feet, therefore lower than planes, but high enough that we cannot hear them. “It makes less noise than an Amazon delivery truck,” she assures.

It will not be tomorrow the day before, however, that we will receive our online purchases by drone. “We are considering these solutions for example for Transplant Québec (organ donation) or to carry out an initial assessment of needs at an accident site,” explains Mélanie Lussier.

Living environments to innovate

To achieve this progress, the greater Montreal region must of course continue to be attractive. This is what the various players in the sector are working on, who ended up obtaining the aerospace innovation zone designation from the Quebec government on May 21. This zone has three poles: Longueuil (borough of Saint-Hubert), Montreal (borough of Saint-Laurent) and Mirabel. While Bombardier and Airbus are already present, we can now also count on Boeing, which will invest $240 million out of the $415 million in public and private investments granted.

“The innovation zone will allow cities, training establishments, research centers and businesses to work better together to develop interesting living environments around airports,” says Mélanie Lussier. This will enable us to work more effectively to attract talent to meet the industry’s major challenges. »

This content was produced by the Special Publications team at Duty, relating to marketing. The writing of the Duty did not take part.

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