Advanced Air Mobility Institute Founder and President Dan Sloat talks to aaminternational.com about the organization’s role in the new field of aviation, its partnership with Lyte Aviation, and what the future holds for AAM.
Can you explain what the Advanced Air Mobility Institute does?
We are a community of opportunities. The Advanced Air Mobility Institute connects experts with decision makers to help grow AAM from a rather siloed industry into a truly collaborative ecosystem. This emerging field of aviation will impact so many varied facets of society that we need to draw upon the knowledge and insights of a very broad diversity of disciplines. We are an international non-profit research center working on behalf of everyday citizens. The AAM Institute is designed to accelerate access to this technology responsibly, with priority to public safety use cases, and spread awareness of its benefits to historically underserved communities.
Since establishing, what have been the main challenges you’ve faced?
As with many new initiatives, funding is a challenge that needs attention of a different nature than our primary mission. From the beginning we have taken a firm stance to not charge exorbitant membership dues. We are certainly open to collaboration, partnerships, and sponsorship but we believe at this stage of AAM, most of the capital is better suited staying with OEMs to help them reach certification first. We are financially sustainable so our efforts are focused on getting these aircraft operational.
Interestingly, our main challenge has been in assuring prospective industry partners that we genuinely just want to see them and the entire ecosystem succeed. That is our mission: to help make AAM a reality so that there are plenty of benefits to be shared and more lives can be saved.
Lyte Aviation and the Institute recently formed a partnership for alternatives to ferry travel in Seattle. Can you share details on how that occurred? Any progress?
I connected with their founder, Freshta Farzam, and we set to work to identify a community that would stand to gain substantially from AAM services and thereby showcase the value of their LA-44 SkyBus. I was particularly interested in overwater routes because of the inherent decrease in collateral damage and Freshta was keen to address the needs of high daily commuter traffic. We found that the Bainbridge Island ferry across the Puget Sound to downtown Seattle is the second busiest ferry in the United States. It has significantly less helicopter traffic as compared to the Staten Island ferry in NYC so a pilot program will be easier to integrate.
We have since presented to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and published a White Paper to expound upon the unique challenges and opportunities of the greater Seattle area. Syncing up with other local transportation developments underway is especially important for a more comprehensive multi-modal solution.
Is the Institute attending any events/conferences in the coming months? If so, what do you have planned for them?
We will be attending EAA in Wisconsin, the AAM Summit in Maryland, eVTOL Insights conference in California, Flying Hy in North Dakota, Women & Drones Award in Washington DC, Drone Enable in Montreal, as well as a few speaking opportunities with our partners in Europe to round out the calendar year. We plan to continue outreach and grow awareness beyond the aviation sector. We have an especially exciting global public awareness campaign under development in concert with the Gilmore Group media team.
How do you see the Institute evolving in 2024 and beyond?
We fully expect to see passenger carrying eVTOL operations starting in 2024. Under Part 103 ultralight rules, this is certainly feasible and we have connected several key stakeholders to facilitate the necessary mix of OEMs, Infrastructure, regulators, community advocates, and customer interest to make this happen. As operations get underway, the Institute will be encouraging the utmost safety precautions, proactive policies to defend rights, and robust cybersecurity practices. Accountability will be vital to ongoing public trust in 2024 and beyond.
What do you think the future looks like for the AAM industry?
Personally, I envision a future where AAM is embraced as essential to safe, fair, and efficient modern communities. First responders will be able to leverage this technology in ways to mitigate risks like never before in history. The sheer speed and accuracy of these tools will provide unprecedented situational awareness to incident commanders. Quality of life will improve as the movement of people and goods becomes more efficient and reliable through increasing levels of sophisticated autonomy. Ultimately, AAM is about bringing together those who matter most to us. Not just time, but quality time, is our most precious resource. The future of AAM is bright – through carefully measured urgency, we can achieve great things.