Advances in battery technology and electric motors are likely to revolutionize general aviation and personal mobility in the next 20 years, said Dan Schwinn, founder and CEO of avionics manufacturer Avidyne.
“We’ve had a really interesting couple of decades in general aviation,” said Schwinn, whose firm turns 25 years old in 2018. “I think the next 10 or 20 years is going to be way more interesting.”
But those developments are relatively small compared to the “primordial soup” of more than 100 firms worldwide that are working on new concepts for personal air transportation.
Schwinn announced that Avidyne and L3 are jointly offering a $2,500 rebate for customers who buy both an Avidyne IFD550 multifunction display and an L3 Lynx transponder. But he spent most of a 30-minute talk discussing possibilities for a wildly different aviation future.
There’s a strong business case for personal air transportation, he said, and ride-hailing platform Uber has quantified it with hard data.
“Uber has insane amounts of information about who wants to go where, and how big the market is,” Schwinn said. “They’ve got the analytics. It’s absolutely huge, and it’s only a small fraction of what they’re moving on the ground.”
Schwinn said his 11-year-old daughter helped convince him that the demand for futuristic, electric flying vehicles is real. She’s flown with him many times in GA aircraft but “has absolutely zero interest in aviation.”
Watching YouTube videos of a person-carrying quadcopter, however, fascinated her.
“I want to fly one of these,” she told him.
Avidyne isn’t going to make a flying vehicle, but the company does intend to supply certified avionics in whatever form the aircraft manufacturers want it.
Auto companies are investing heavily in new batteries and electric motors, and more power and lighter weight are likely to be transferable to aviation.
“It’s just barely possible to build an interesting airplane with the batteries we have now,” he said. “Technology is being developed right now that could change that.”