A podcast at the intersection of technology and flight. Here we discuss the most important forces shaping the market of advanced air mobility, with a particular focus on why and how they matter to those building a business in this very exciting and growing industry.
#32 Geoff Bower, Archer: designing and commercializing eVTOL aircraft
Today’s conversation is with Geoff Bower, Chief Engineer at Archer Aviation, a developer of electric vertical take off and landing – or eVTOL – aircraft.
Geoff is one of the most renowned engineers in the eVTOL arena, and we sat down for an in-depth discussion on developing and commercializing eVTOL aircraft. We start the conversation with a high level description of a day in the life of a chief engineer of a pioneering aircraft company, which sets the stage for a discussion about the assumptions and design tradeoffs that Goeff and his team faced when figuring out the requirements for an aircraft and mission for which there is really no historical precedent to rely on.
One of our favorite parts of the conversation is when Geoff talks about the design and development tools, including multidisciplinary optimization and simulation tools developed internally at Archer, that were used to arrive at what Geoff calls productivity requirements of payload, range, and speed, as well as other requirements related to the infrastructure footprint, turnaround time, manufacturability, maintainability and many others.
You will also hear from Geoff about the reasons for going with a battery electric and piloted configuration, as opposed to an autonomous aircraft with a hybrid or hydrogen propulsion system, about the economics of eVTOLs, and a deep dive into the certification process, system safety process, as well as differences between the FAA and EASA when it comes to probabilities for catastrophic failure conditions.
Enjoy the conversation with Geoff Bower!
#31 Stanford Professor Mykel J. Kochenderfer: building robust systems, ACAS X
Today’s discussion is with Mykel Kochenderfer, Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. He is the director of the Stanford Intelligent Systems Laboratory (SISL), conducting research on advanced algorithms and analytical methods for the design of robust decision making systems.
When one of our previous guests recommended we speak with Mykel, he said that Mykel led the ACAS-X effort (a very successful and recent airborne collision avoidance system for our listeners who may not know) and would have a really cool view on practical implementation and validation of autonomy.
Mykel talks about building highly robust systems that interact with humans in the real world, he discusses the team behind Airborne Collision Avoidance System X (or ACAS-X), what drove the need for ACAS-X, how it was accomplished, and its terrific results.
You will hear about the practical implementation, validation, and implementation of autonomy in aviation and AAM. His discussion around autonomy is important for everyone to hear, and that although elements of autonomy are a long way off in aviation and advanced air mobility , he has confidence that AI and autonomy can be applied to many areas of aviation and advanced air mobility.
Also we have a great discussion around simulation, its importance, and the different types of simulation.
#30 Dr. Will Roper: defense, digital engineering, building dual use businesses
If you want to learn about the future of warfare, the war in Ukraine, digital transformation and defense, and how to work with the government, you’ll want to hear our talk with Dr. Will Roper, a physicist and foreign policy strategist who served as the 13th Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, overseeing procurement for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force from 2018 to 2021.
#29: Greg Brenneman; Leadership in Aviation, Business, and Investment
You’ll really enjoy our talk with Greg Brenneman. Getting insight from a leader in aviation, business, and investment gives us a great and broad perspective as we innovate at the intersection of tech and flight.
Some of you may know Greg as the President of Continental Airlines and an extraordinary airline and turnaround leader, some as a CEO or Board member of a number of large companies, and some know Greg as Executive Chairman of CCMP Capital Advisors, a leading private equity firm.
What we discuss:
· Greg shares his perspective on the aviation industry today – and how it has evolved in the last several years and the extra level of discipline that COVID brought to the airline industry.
· We discuss how technology has evolved over the years, and listen to the opportunities Greg believes could be addressed by today’s technology companies.
· Listen to his perspectives on advanced mobility – how he would view advanced mobility if running an airline today – and the many near and long-term opportunities for advanced mobility.
· And for AAM companies who intend to be both OEMs and operators; what to be aware of and pay attention to.
· Listen to what he looks for in companies he’s about to invest in – and the leadership of those companies.
· And the first steps Greg takes when running a company or turning around a company – and the lessons from his one sheet of paper.
· And listen to the advice he gives to the innovator and the business leader.
Thanks again Greg!
#28 Dennis Muilenburg: AAM strategic perspective
In this episode, we have the great pleasure of talking to Dennis Muilenburg.
Dennis needs no introduction, but let’s highlight a few of his accomplishments – before his current role as CEO and Chairman of the Board of New Vista Acquisition Corporation, a Special Purpose Acquisition Company – or SPAC – Dennis was CEO and Chairman of the board of Directors at The Boeing Company, where he started as an engineering intern in 1985.
In his close to 40 years of experience in aerospace and defense, Dennis has seen it all: from engineering and program management of advanced civil and future combat systems (including the F-22, Airborne Laser, the Condor reconnaissance aircraft, and High Speed Civil Transport)…to leading the development and implementation of operational and growth initiatives across the Boeing enterprise.
Relevant to our discussion today, Dennis led the formation of Boeing Horizon X, an innovation arm focused on startup investments in high growth areas of autonomy, propulsion, cybersecurity, space systems, computing, advanced air mobility, advanced materials, and a few others.
Given his deep aerospace roots, his visionary mindset, and the fact that he ran a company that has had a dramatic impact on humanity, we asked Dennis to talk about the aviation industry (including advanced air mobility) from a strategic perspective, and to give the entrepreneurs in our audience a taste of what it’s like to run a global aerospace company.
Listen to what Dennis considers the key geostrategic forces acting on aviation, how new technologies could change the distribution of profits along the aviation value chain, the role of autonomy, and how the convergence of mega markets and mega technology trends set the stage for the most innovative decade in the history of aviation. We also discuss the potential for near term use cases in advanced air mobility such as drone delivery to revolutionize logistics and e-commerce.
Lastly, Dennis shares invaluable advice to entrepreneurs on how to navigate the aerospace industry and build a culture of courage and humility.
#27 Lorenzo Murzilli: EASA regulations, building a drone business in Europe
In this episode we speak with Lorenzo Murzilli, CEO of Murzilli Consulting. We discuss the state of the drone market in Europe, including the rate of commercial drone adoption, differences between EU and US, remaining gaps, and EASA regulations.
Listen to Lorenzo’s continuous emphasis on and importance of being aware of the hurdles in starting and running a drone business - and to embrace and not avoid these hurdles!
To that end, you’ll really enjoy our start-up case study – where we conduct a deep dive with Lorenzo into building a drone business in Europe - from idea and CONOPS to design verification and operational approvals, and the pitfalls and traps you want to avoid.
Three clever guys take the time to explain a cool subject and postulate where the industry is going. I’m looking forward to future episodes.