On Becoming a 2021 TED Fellow
An opportunity to spread the word about electric aviation
By Cory Combs, Executive Tech Fellow and Ampaire Co-founder
A lot of people have seen TED talks on YouTube, presenting big ideas in bite-sized form. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, seeks to spread big, world-changing ideas. Its motto, in fact, is “ideas worth spreading.” It is hard to think of an idea that is more worth spreading than the Third Revolution in Aviation — electrification.
Every year TED receives thousands of nominations for their Fellows program and selects just 20 individuals who are pioneers in their fields. When I received word that I was selected for this year’s class, I was both honored to have this opportunity and enthusiastic to spread the word about our work in electrifying aviation.
When I started to sketch out ideas for electrified aircraft in 2010, this subject was top-of-mind for practically no one. After a few years refining the ideas and designs that later became Ampaire, in 2016 Kevin Noertker, a former colleague at Northrop Grumman, joined me in founding Ampaire to make these concepts a reality. He was so excited about the potential for electric aviation that he even dropped his plans for attending business school, despite the industry being in early infancy! Quickly, our team started to grow with other industry leaders who also took the leap to join Ampaire because they believed so much in our vision.
Just three years after founding Ampaire, we flew our first aircraft — our plug-in hybrid Electric EEL. At that point, a lot of people were paying attention to electric aviation and to our scrappy LA firm. Instead of just talking about the potential of electric aircraft, we were regularly flying practical hybrid-electric propulsion systems. Now we’re already flying our second upgraded version of the EEL, working on a third EEL project with ARPA-e, and scaling up to a much larger DHC-6 Eco Otter SX aircraft with the help of NASA.
TED asked me to give an Earth Day talk on the emerging field of electric aviation and its potential to solve big problems in sustainability and in improving travel options for people worldwide, especially those in underserved areas. Earlier this month it was posted to the internet and I invite you to watch it here.
I’m grateful to have this platform to speak about a subject that is so meaningful to me, and I want to thank all those who have helped support this vision.