Aviation fans gather at world’s largest air show, to watch latest innovation

Global Business

It’s one of the largest fly-in air shows in the world. Nearly 600,000 people attended this year’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in the U.S. state of Wisconsin.

The Experimental Aircraft Association puts on the event and innovation in aviation and aerospace is a big focus of the annual gathering.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy was there and reports on the latest in personal aviation.

“It’s grown, it’s gotten bigger,” said one spectator. “I’d say more planes, more tents with planes.”

The Experimental Aircraft Association put on the event which featured aviation’s past and present. The air show’s Innovation Center offered a glimpse of the future.

“There’s a ton of technology and innovation going on and that’s what we’re here to foster,” Steve Slocum who heads up AeroInnovate, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh business accelerator that helps early-stage aviation companies like Take Flight Interactive said.

“We use game-like elements to teach real-world flight training,” Brandon Seltz, Take Flight Interactive’s founder said.

Flight is taking on brand new dimensions these days. The creators of the SureFly personal helicopter, with its eight rotors, promise a safer, cheaper and easier to pilot copter than the ones that fly now.

“We are getting a lot of interest in commuting-type applications, so like an air taxi or personal helicopter for commuting in a big city,” Alan Arkus, R&D Mechanical Engineer with Workhorse Group which developed SureFly said.

EHANG 184, with eight propellers, four arms and built for one passenger, comes straight from China. This remotely-piloted machine could become the world’s first autonomous aerial vehicle.

“It’s like a shared taxi, it’s like a flying taxi,” Derrick Xiong, EHANG’s co-founder said.

And then there’s the PAL-V, a personal air and land vehicle. It’s not a car, it’s not a plane. It’s both.

“In any aircraft today, we’ve got an issue where if we come across inclement weather, we have to land,” Mark Jennings-Bates, PAL-V Vice President of Sales said. “With the PAL-V we just drive through the weather, fly again on the other side. So it gives a certainty that we can get to our destination.”

The PAL-V starts at $400,000. The first deliveries are planned for late next year.

“The person who’s looking at buying the PAL-V isn’t looking at how they’re going to come up with the deposit,” Jennings-Bates said. “They’re not asking if it can be financed. They’re just saying can you get one for my wife as well and then I’ll buy two of them.”

The air show was a target-rich environment for the makers of these products.

“You know I think there’s half a million pilots here and I feel like I’ve talked to most of them,” said Arkus with SureFly.

“They might be the first batch of customers for us and that’s why it makes sense for us to come here,” said EHANG’s Xiong.

Slocum said these entrepreneurs are driven by the same thing.

“Companies find a way to be innovative by looking at problems and then figuring out how they can solve that problem, and then you need to tell people why they should care about that problem,” he said.

This year, for these trailblazers, the road to commercialization wound through Oshkosh where they hope they picked up a little extra acceleration.