New Jersey could become a leader in a growing new sector of aviation technology that may one day lead to air taxis transporting people and cargo between cities and communities via electric-powered, vertical-landing aircraft.
The new technology is called Advanced Air Mobility, and Atlantic County is poised to reap millions in tax revenue and create thousands of new jobs over the next 15 years, according to a recent study done by Deloitte Consulting LLC.
The study was undertaken for the National Aerospace Research and Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township, which sees the new technology as a job and revenue creator for South Jersey.
“Advanced Air Mobility gives us a once-in-a-generation economic development opportunity with statewide benefits that starts here in Atlantic County,” Howard Kyle, president and CEO of the National Aerospace Research and Technology Park, said. “It will create technology-based jobs and will help to attract aviation-related companies.”
The new aviation technology being developed is in the early stages of planning and development but advancing quickly, Kyle said.
The Atlantic County-based research and technology park is helping to lay the foundations to bring the new industry to the county, hoping to solve the economic crisis and make the state a leader in Advanced Air Mobility, or AAM.
“We have a critical need for economic diversification because when the casino industry tanked a few years ago, it had a devastating effect,” Kyle said. “We had an economic study done, identified five sectors, and the most promising one for immediate payoffs was aviation.”
According to the study, the industry’s growth will create jobs in four categories: direct, indirect, induced and catalytic.
AAM is projected to create 3,079 direct jobs, positions needed to make the operations possible.
Indirect jobs that would make the critical components and services needed by the new vertical flight aircraft would grow by 4,936, according to the Deloitte Consulting report.
Another 5,456 new jobs would be created to serve the new workforce’s needs, which are known as induced jobs, while another 12,208 jobs are projected to spring up around tourism, insurance, legal firms, and real estate jobs, according to the study.
The Advanced Air Mobility technology will not only help to create technology-based jobs but also is expected to draw the attention of aviation-related companies, Kyle said.
Joby Aviation, a Santa Cruz, California-based aviation company developing vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, has short-listed Atlantic County as a place to develop and research, Kyle said.
Deloitte also found that Advanced Air Mobility will create tax revenue for New Jersey through the newly established jobs. The study estimated tax benefits would reach $152 million annually.
According to the study, New Jersey is an “economically viable” location due to its proximity to Philadelphia and New York.
The county also has an aviation hub that includes resources like the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center, Atlantic City International Airport, and the research park.
Kyle said that the Atlantic County Economic Center has partnered with the National Aerospace Research and Technology Park to develop a “state-of-the-art maintenance and repair academy” that will incorporate AAM and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) aircraft.
“On top of that, it will have augmented and virtual reality training,” Kyle said. “The Air Force signed a (memorandum of understanding) to participate in the planning of that academy.”
Academic institutions such as Rowan University, Atlantic County Institute of Technology, Atlantic Cape Community College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and the National Institute of Aerospace are also partners with the technology park.
Part of the plan also includes an emerging aviation research triangle — connecting Atlantic County’s aviation hub with Cape May’s UAS program, and the Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst Naval Air Station.
“You can start seeing these linkages form,” Kyle said. “We have laid the foundation for an aviation industry that expands beyond Atlantic County that links together the aviation-innovation hub we have here, the Joint Base, and what Cape May is doing.”
The research goes further than the aircraft, which run on electric or hybrid-electric power and are designed to be quieter. It also includes putting automated devices in airports and on airfields, starting with simple mechanics like lawn mowers.
This simple automation will also cut costs for airports.
“You have to control the grass because birds, and animals habitate in it, and if they’re at the end of the runway they’re going to get in the way of the airplane and kill somebody,” said Chris Seher, a subject matter expert with the the technology park. “So, the amount of money it costs to man and cut grass is a large budget. If you can automate that, you’re going to save a lot of money.”
Seher said the new technology will also benefit the military.
“They put portable, temporary airports in deserts, on mountains, in combat zones, and they’ve got military people in harm’s way who are out there having to cut grass. Well, if you automate that, you can keep that airman or airwoman out of harm’s way and save money.”
Seher said they hope to have the first prototypes of the lawnmowers at the McGuire Base and ACY next spring.