The future of aerial vehicles

Students and staff at the University of Manitoba learned about the potential of hybrid air vehicles during a seminar held by the U of M Transport Institute last Tuesday.

Guest speaker Stephen Newton, director of business development of Discovery Air Innovations, spent the hour-long seminar explaining everything that you ever wanted to know about hybrid air vehicles (HAV), and their potential as an alternative to Canada’s reliance on winter roads in travel to remote communities.

Hybrid air vehicles look similar to a blimp but function quite differently: they use a combination of helium, vector thrusters and an innovative aerodynamic design.

Discovery Air Innovations entered into an agreement with Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited last August. Newton said that they hope introduce the HAV 366 to commercial services by 2015.

Currently they are still in the designing and prototyping stage but Newton said he is confident the project will succeed.
“This is going to happen, it’s part of the future,” Newton explained.

The HAV 366 is the 50 tonne version and Newton predicts that the 200 tonne version will be available by 2020.

Newton said that, because of their capabilities, the HAVs could be used as emergency response vehicles, mobile medical clinics to visit northern communities, mobile crane, aerial survey and they can also carry passengers — the 200 tonne version could find use in cross-continental travel.

Newton told the audience that the HAV 366 can stay airborne for up to 10 days, in a manned role.

“If I want to turn it into an unmanned aircraft, it can stay airborne for 21 days,” he said.

HAVs have many uses because at 40 per cent payload, they can perform vertical takeoffs and landings, thus eliminating the need for airports and runways.

They can land on virtually every surface, such as: ice, water, gravel and permafrost, which makes them ideal for our Canadian terrain and climate. According to Discovery Air Innovations not only are HAV efficient and incredibly useful, but they are greener and less disruptive to fragile natural habitats.

Newton stressed that this could “change the way we move things around the world.”

At the seminar Newton also announced that Discovery Air Innovations, in collaboration with the Canadian Transport Research Forum, would be holding its first annual HAV student paper competition, which is open to all full time university graduate students.

The topic of the competition is to determine the advantages and use of Heavy Lift Hybrid Air Vehicles, which is a specific type of HAV, to aid in alleviating global suffering, such as humanitarian missions. Undergraduate students are not allowed to participate at the moment.

The deadline for the competition is March 31, 2012, and the first place prize is $500. The second place prize is $250.