Women and Drones interviewed Ken Stewart, CEO of AiRXOS, part of GE Aviation, an important corporate member of Women and Drones. Ken explains how AiRXOS is impacting the drone and the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) markets.

How did you get this part of the aviation industry?

AiRXOS was one of only two companies that were actually created within GE Ventures, and was done so as a collaboration between GE Ventures and GE Aviation. We recognized early on that to develop the type of technology for the future of flight, we’d need to bring together two disparate industries, traditional aerospace and Silicon Valley-minded software development. We needed to develop capabilities at start-up speeds with the rigor of aerospace safety and compliance. In the aviation space, this had never really been done before and has been key to some of our early success. 

What are AiRXOS’ services and products?

As a company we focus on enabling advanced UAS Operations, for federal and state agencies and enterprise.  Essentially any operation that is beyond Part 107 and require waivers and exemptions. Federal and state agencies and enterprises need repeatable, scalable, and economically viable solutions that can leverage the automation that UAVs provide. The combination of our Air Mobility™ Platform software solution and waiver services deliver on those outcomes.

What is the significance of participation in the FAA Unmanned Pilot Program (UPP)?

UAV-based services are a nascent and emerging market and these pilot programs help us to more rapidly evolve that ecosystem of technology and services that will open-up the drone economy. By bringing industry leaders into these programs – made up of private sector industries, state and federal agencies – we’re able to accelerate adoption of drone-based technologies and services integrated into the National Airspace System. It’s a win for enterprises and the industry overall.

How does AiRXOS enable Urban Air Mobility?

We see Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) as a foundational element for Urban Air Mobility. AiRXOS, as a provider of UTM services and technologies, is collaborating with multiple government agencies, both local and federal, on the development of a UTM framework to include: Airspace policy, technologies, and processes to ensure the safe integration of UAVs and subsequently UAM into the national airspace. AiRXOS is the foundation for Urban Air Mobility.

What do you see as the outlook for UAM?

UAM is an emerging and innovative transportation option that will soon help to avoid the congestion plaguing many cities around the world. This includes people, cargo, and medical transport. Every week, we hear of new aircraft targeting UAM being introduced. The key for UAM to be successful will depend on three main areas:

    1. Private sector investment will need to continue to drive the development of this UAM ecosystem.
    2. Policy remains to be a barrier in the development of the UAV services market and will need to move faster in order to meet the needs of UAM.
    3. Public support in two key areas:  A) Financially, in that the economics must be better than or equitable to current modes of transportation, and B) Public trust in the safety of the operations of these aircraft.
How has AirXOS introduced diversity into your workforce?

Diversity and inclusion are key components of all GE businesses and are foundational to the AiRXOS team.  We hire the best talent everywhere in the world, and as we grow, we are committed to a global, diverse and inclusive environment where all employees contribute and the best ideas win every day.

Interview by Women And Drones advisor, Dr. Tulinda Larsen