SFU students take to the skies with Harbour Air ePlane project

SFU MOT students collaborated with Harbour Air on the ePlanes

This is a photo of the Harbour ePlanes. The small sea plane is taking off from the ocean. The small plane is a bright, electric green colour.
PHOTO: Harbour Air

By: Eden Chipperfield, News Writer

Students from SFU’s Management of Technology (MOT) degree are taking to the skies with the first electric commercial planes. This project is part of an ongoing venture with Harbour Air Seaplanes, a company based out of Vancouver, Richmond, and Pitt Meadows. 

Students from SFU’s MOT program were tasked with analyzing planes and researching how the new expansion would impact business. Since 2019, over 70 tested flights have occurred with the ePlanes through Harbour Air. With the help of SFU MOT students, assessments such as “electric aviation sector, gauging market dynamics, competition, technological innovations, and pinpointing potential challenges and opportunities” were addressed. 

Professor Carlos da Costa, an associate professor from the Beedie School of Business, saw this as a way to capitalize on the MOT program at SFU and prepare “students to tackle complex business and technology challenges.” He noted, “The students brought proficiency from diverse domains, including aerospace, venture capital, software development, robotics, and telecommunications.”

Pollutants from aircraft are greatly associated with the gradual worsening of climate change. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are a significant problem for the climate, but also “strong warming non-CO2 effects due to nitrogen oxides (NOx), vapour trails, and cloud formation triggered by the altitude at which aircraft operate.” Non-CO2 pollutants such as methane and NOx “contribute twice as much to global warming” as CO2. Since air travel has been a significantly growing method of transportation since the 1990s, the concern about aircraft-related pollution is only increasing.

According to the Harbour Air website, they became a “fully carbon-neutral airline in 2007.” Now, the business wants to strive toward becoming carbon-zero. The company expressed they knew about planes’ environmental impacts and wanted to help create a “big difference for our planet.” 

Greg Hatton, a representative for the SFU MOT program, applauds Harbour Air on their incentive to create ePlanes and the “beginning of the electric age of aviation.” The introduction of ePlanes also aligns with Prime Minister Trudeau’s goal for the country to attain “net-zero carbon by 2035.”

The ePlanes are planning to begin operation by 2024.