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Thu, Jul 22, 2010

Oshkosh 2010 Attracts Speakers To Discuss Clean Technologies

More Than The Usual Suspects Come To Oshkosh To Discuss Innovation

By Maxine Scheer

One of the things I enjoy the most about AirVenture is seeing innovation in progress. While many eyes will be positioned 45 degrees above the horizon from Runway 18-36 at Whittman Regional Airport, my attention will be drawn to discovering the people and events that are a bit outside the norm of the fantastic airshows and aviation celebrities. This year, I believe, will be quite exciting as movers and shakers that can propel our economy (not just our aircraft) will be presenting their ideas at AirVenture and communicating aviation's visions for innovation and the emerging CleanTech economy.


Artist's Concept CAFE Electric Airplane

Most directly applicable to the CleanTech interests of attendees at AirVenture, will be in the area of electric-powered fixed and rotor-winged aircraft. Of specific interest is a day-long World Electric Aircraft Symposium, on Friday, July 30th and daily themed forums at the Aviation Learning Center, both sponsored by General Electric Corporation.
 
As reported in ANN's June 6, 2010 announcement, the Electric Aircraft Symposium's agenda includes many EAA pioneers. The symposium will also feature AirVenture newcomers that include Dr. Don Hillebrand, Director of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory's Center for Transportation Research, and Jeffrey JB Straubel, co-founder of Tesla Motors.

Dr. Hillebrand will be talking about DOE research in hybrid and electric vehicles and how this work translates to aircraft. JB Straubel, Tesla's Chief Technology Officer (CTO), will be leading a discussion from the perspective of an entrepreneur and engineer who has designed and built both electric aircraft and a new electric sport car, the Tesla Roadster.

EAA notes on their website that the Electric Aircraft Symposium is free, but requires advanced registration. The event is currently scheduled in the Founders Wing of the EAA AirVenture Museum and based on recent emails with EAA officials, the symposium is quickly reaching capacity.

While officials from DOE might not be regulars at AirVenture, let's hope they return with future announcements about investments in aviation related programs, companies and small business grants. DOE received over $30 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and with legislated capacity for loan guarantees and other incentives, is the lead federal agency responsible for fueling significant momentum in creating growth for hundreds of thousands of green-collar jobs throughout the Nation.

DOE is also using aviation as a tool for an education program, the Real World Design Challenge, announced at AirVenture in 2008.  Over the past two years, DOE's Office of Science & Technology has partnered with Parametric Technology Corporation, Cessna, and the FAA in developing aviation-themed challenges. ANN anticipates hearing more about this DOE challenge during AirVenture.

According to the Census Bureau, in each of the previous three economic recoveries, small employers accounted for the vast majority of new jobs - the bulk of them coming from firms with fewer than 20 workers. EAA enthusiasts bring a long list of examples of some of the greatest ideas born in a garage, or should we say, a hangar, that resulted in the formation of small businesses. The recovery from this recent "Great Recession" has proven a challenge to many small businesses. To help entrepreneurs and small businesses grow, a University of Wisconsin based economic development program, AeroInnovate, is returning to Oshkosh after its debut in 2009, to showcase entrepreneurs at AirVenture.


Yuneec Electric Airplane

AeroInnovate will be hosting three events that include a forum on preparing successful business plans, a discussion about sources of entrepreneurial funding, and a "Pitch and Mingle", which at last year's inaugural event was estimated to draw over 80 investors and entrepreneurs. It will be interesting to see what kind of progress has been made and if there are any new ideas presented for supporting growth of aviation-related small businesses.

The commercialization of space exploration is another area with parallels to both aviation and energy. Dating back to the 1970's, NASA was looking at how space-based infrastructure could capture solar energy and transmit it back to Earth. This idea has some renewed momentum. In April 2009, California's biggest energy utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, announced a deal to purchase 200 megawatts of electricity from a California based startup, Solaren, that anticipates capacity to beam space-based solar power down to Earth beginning in 2016. As noted by the National Space Society, there are currently four American commercial companies seeking capital to make space solar a reality: Solaren, the Space Island Group, Space Energy Inc, and Managed Energy Technologies LLC. While space-based solar power is not yet on the agenda for AirVenture 2010, I am curious to hear reports on Commercial Space, Our Future Opportunities and An Engineering Critique of Climate Science, two of the many forums to be presented by EAA veteran and aviation pioneer, Burt Rutan.

FMI: www.recovery.gov, www.realworlddesignchallenge.org, www.aeroinnovate.org, www.nss.org, www.doe.gov

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