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Everybody in ground-based construction needs to look to the sky: Aviation lawyer

Angela Gismondi
Everybody in ground-based construction needs to look to the sky: Aviation lawyer
VOLOCOPTER - In a presentation at the Ontario General Contractors Symposium entitled Building Ontario by Air, Katherine Ayre, founder of CAYRES Inc. and an aviation lawyer, talked about the role of the construction industry in building infrastructure for drones and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircrafts. Pictured is VoloCity’s eVTOL aircraft.

While flying cars may seem like a concept that’s years away, they are actually closer than one might think, and the construction industry needs to be prepared to build the infrastructure to support them.

That was the message from Katherine Ayre, CEO of CAYRES Inc., who spoke to delegates at the Ontario General Contractors Association’s 14th annual symposium in The Blue Mountains, Ont.

Ayre was part of a panel discussion that also included Dan Boan and Laura Delemere, partners at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

“Flying cars are here,” said the aviation lawyer. “They’re flying in China. They’re flying in the U.S. They’ve flown in Canada. It’s coming. It’s already here.”

The Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) market is coming to Canada. Drone and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) technology are going to move goods, people and services differently.

“I could be in front of all of you in 1910 and say you’ve got three years and Henry Ford’s going into production,” Ayre explained. “Who is building the roadways? Who is building the traffic lights? Who is building the garages? We’re moving from horsedrawn carriage to horseless carriage. We’re following the same ‘S’ curve as we did moving from a tethered phone to a cellphone or retail shopping to online shopping. It’s going to change the way we think about our communities. It’s going to change the way we think about transportation.”


Collaboration and input needed to develop standards

National and international standards are being developed for ground-based supporting infrastructure for AAM.

Contractors need to be informed on AAM concepts including the technology proposed, site selection to maximize air safety, noise, rooftop architecture, community consultation for air corridor creation, air traffic management, and engagement of all levels of government.

AAM requires collaboration across many industries, including construction and property development groups to be able to benefit from the new technology, Ayre said.

“We need your help,” Ayre stated. “I need at least one of you to spread the message to the rest of the people at the conference because…I’m doing a wish list for all of agriculture and all of construction across Canada and it’s going up the chain to Transport Canada. We’re setting regulations. We need to hear from you guys. We need to hear from the companies that want these drones.

“We’ve got to scale up knowledge so everybody in ground-based construction is now thinking construction in the sky.”

Pictured is the cabin for Eve Air Mobility’s eVTOL.
EVE AIR MOBILITY – Pictured is the cabin for Eve Air Mobility’s eVTOL.

In addition to spreading the word, she encouraged companies that are interested to get involved.

“If even after today’s conference you think about, ‘I want to get involved, I know my company is interested in drones…How do I do it? Or I want my voice to be heard as regulations are coming,’ contact any one of us because we’ll get your message up to the right people who need to hear it,” she said.

“This legislation, these policies cannot be shaped in a vacuum. It requires the commitment and contribution of every Ontarian and everyone in the agricultural, construction, auto and manufacturing sector.”

In Canada aviation is traditionally governed federally by Transport Canada, however provinces, territories and municipalities are also getting engaged.

The National Research Council of Canada launched the Canadian Advanced Air Mobility Consortium.

“It’s a not-for-profit consortium, so it’s got the nimbleness of a not-for-profit but the full weight of the federal government behind it to help launch a national harmonized strategy across the country for advanced air mobility,” said Ayre.

In addition, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Montreal, is holding an inaugural meeting for regulation, policy guidelines and standards for AAM this September.


The role construction can play in building Ontario by air

In terms of the role of the construction industry, it is expected that “droneports” and “vertiports” will need to be built and worked into existing infrastructure such as airports and heliports, train stations, bus stations and greenfield sites.

In addition to a final approach take-off and landing area, Ayre said, “You need a place to store your lithium-ion batteries, you need fire suppression. If you are at altitude, I would suggest it needs to be heated for snow and ice removal because it’s very challenging up on the roof. You need protection of people not going into that space and you need a way to co-ordinate the flow of goods and loading onto the vehicle.”

In Ontario, flight paths started to be developed in 2015. If you are building in Toronto or anywhere in the world that happens to be under an air mobility flight path there’s a process that needs to be followed.

“There are a number of aviation consultants in this space for flight paths,” Ayre said. “There are a number of aviation consultants for drones as well. You need policies and procedures in place to deal with this. I strongly recommend legal so go to your legal counsel to help guide it because it is heavily regulated and quite technical.

“I would say that what has been created in downtown Toronto is the most complex, most beautiful, safest, compromised airspace — a balanced approach between aviation hospitals and what we can do for property developers,” she added.

Follow the author on X/Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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