Canada Invests $50 Million to Develop Autonomous Helicopter Technologies

Canada’s aerospace and next-generation helicopter industry has just been given the green light to lift off.

The Canadian government has invested $49.5 million into an aerospace consortium comprised of 19 different companies. The announcement was made during Aéro-Montréal’s Aerospace Innovation Forum and the consortium will be led by Bell Helicopter Textron Canada.

“This program will foster the development of new engineering and manufacturing knowledge and technologies by the Bell team in Canada,” said Cynthia Garneau, president of Bell Helicopter Textron Canada. “It will instill a new dynamic in the aerospace community and strengthen Canada’s role as an innovation leader in the vertical lift and unmanned aerial systems segments. We are welcoming a new era at Bell, a technology company, and are enthusiastic to be doing so with such a passionate group of partners. This program allows new technologies to emerge and offers a wide range of companies of all sizes an unprecedented access to new markets.”

The new funding will help Bell and the other members develop new innovative technologies for next-generation helicopters, including those that can fly with or without a crew onboard using autonomous driving technology. In addition, new research into ways of making these helicopters more environmentally friendly and sustainable will also be looked at. Finally, noise reduction methods will be researched, a first of its kind of any aircraft.

To be more specific, the funding will help Bell develop what’s called a fly-by-wire system that replaces manual flight controls with an electronic interface. The goal is for the consortium members to work around Bell’s Mirabel, Quebec headquarters and draw off Montreal’s AI talents, integrating the technology into the next-generation helicopter technology. Air taxis are a distinct possibility, will roll out by the mid-202s being the goal.

Quebec actually makes up more than half of Canada’s aerospace industry, with over 40,000 jobs spread over 220 companies and $14.4 billion in revenue.

The consortium is split between academic and private companies, with a mix of large businesses and SMEs. Private partners include Pratt & Whitney Canada, CMC Electronics and Esterline Technologies Corporation, with a total of nine Canadian universities and 10 businesses. Along with the $49.5 million from the government, Bell and their partners are investing $125 million into Canada’s aerospace industry through this new initiative.

In total, the investment will help to create or maintain 300 jobs in Canada and contribute almost $178 million to the country’s GDP over the next five years.