Sustainable aviation: New Institute at Canadian University
By: Maycol Vargas Source: Skiesmag
Amsterdam, June 21st, 2021 — Public University of Waterloo opens a new institute focused on facing the challenges that threaten the sustainability of the aviation and aerospace sector.
In order to stand up to the aviation social, environmental and economic sector challenges, the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA) was officially approved by the university’s Senate on June 21st, 2021.
This new department will be represented by Dr. Suzanne Kearns, who is an associate professor of aviation at the University working in the Faculty of Environment. WISA will serve as a bridge for the industry, which will be able to access the University’s extensive knowledge network.
About the University
The Waterloo University is a public research university with a main campus in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The university operates three satellite campuses and four affiliated faculties, offering academic programs administered by six faculties and thirteen faculty-based schools. Waterloo operates the world’s largest post-secondary cooperative education program, with more than 20,000 undergraduates enrolled in the university’s cooperative program.
Established in 2007, the University of Waterloo’s aviation program has grown to become the largest of its kind in Canada. The program has a partnership with the Waterloo Wellington Flight Center (WWFC) in the Waterloo International Airport Region.
Dr. Kearns, who is a strong supporter of the University’s aviation program, has been extensively involved in the degree programs. In 2020, around 125 students were admitted. Today, Waterloo has around 300 students actively studying.
When the COVID-19 epidemic began around March 2020, Dr. Kearns watched many of her alumni find themselves out of work and operators struggling to survive.
Dr. Kearns said in an interview with Skies:
I had been advocating for supporting young people and the pilot shortage, but the pandemic changed the narrative of what our industry is facing. I spent about a month thinking about how to support the industry. I realized I am an aviation person embedded in a university. So, I began to think about how I could mobilize research at the university to support the sector. From my perspective, aviation wasn’t sustainable before the pandemic. We were facing workforce shortages, growing environmental challenges and the increasing integration of technologies like drones and artificial intelligence (AI). I think in aviation we were scrambling to figure out how these things could be integrated into our industry.”
According to the professor, the current crisis scenario in the industry is the perfect time to innovate for a successful future. The vision of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics became a reality in her mind when she realized that the themes of people, environment and technology are aligned with the three pillars of any sustainable industry: social, environmental and economic.
Building the Basis
The Doctor had a lot of work in the last 18 months, meeting with hundreds of people in search of support. She was very well received in other sectors of the University such as the Environment, Sciences, Engineering, Health and Arts. Altogether, more than 30 people were interested in working with the students, from the development of the workforce and electric training aircraft to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
With official approval from WISA, the University will serve as the school’s bridge to all things related to the aviation and aerospace sectors, as a non-profit part of the university.
The institute will fund its research costs and undergraduate students through grants and revenue from industry partnerships, with some already well established partnerships.
Dr. Kearns commented about the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA) financial model: “If I was an operator or manufacturer having a challenge, I could come to the institute to work with professors to answer that question. If partners want to work with the institute, there are levels of sponsorship. We have seed funding for the first few years, but after that it’s up to the institute to show it’s providing value to industry.”
Alsim AL250 – Flight Simulator
WISA, in mid-June, acquired an advanced flight simulator, the Alsim AL250. The simulator comes equipped with an engineering package that will allow university researchers to collect accurate data from a variety of training-related studies. In addition, the university is working on a marketing plan, a smooth launch is expected by the end of the summer (northern hemisphere).
You can take a short tour of the simulator through the link:
Dr. Kearns said: “Sustainability for aviation is about the environment, but it’s much bigger than that. We must meet the needs of today without sacrificing future generations’ needs. Environmentalism was far removed from the aviation culture when I was coming up. But the reality is, the increased use of sims and competency-based training hits all three levels of sustainability: social, environmental and economic. You are training students in what they uniquely need, which tends to be less expensive for the learner. Sims are electrically powered so you reduce noise and carbon emissions, and they tend to have higher profit for the school. Together, we will come up with creative winning solutions. Academia can serve the industry – that is the message I’m trying to get across. There’s never been a better time to mobilize academia to serve the sector to support a strong recovery.”
Maycol M. Vargas is an Aeronautical Engineer with a doctorate degree in Space Engineering and Technology and eyesonbrasil correspondent.