APRIL 25-26, 2019
boston, ma, usa


Increased urbanization and congestion are challenging mobility around the world. With the rapid advancement of autonomous technology, many cities are looking to the sky as a third dimension for transportation and growth. Self-piloted flying vehicles are unlocking the lower skies, allowing cities to expand their capacity for distribution of goods and passengers. 

AERIAL FUTURES: The Third Dimension examines the emerging Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market, including opportunities for business and barriers to the operation of cargo drones and flying taxis. The value proposition underscores the potential to create a healthier and efficient future for urban mobility. Scalable, on-demand models for UAM will soon make cities more efficient, reducing transit and construction costs. With point-to-point connectivity that avoids ground traffic, UAM can decongest road traffic, reducing transport time, pollution, accidents and the strain on existing public transport networks. 

In order for the safe, effective, and smooth adoption of UAM, cities will need to integrate its operations into the existing urban transportation system. Assimilating vertiports – networks of take-off and landing zones – into the urban fabric is imperative to ensure UAM vehicles can safely fly and land. Despite improvements in communications technology, GPS and big data, the market still faces significant challenges and constraints. New technology must be tested and certified, and other challenges mitigated: noise, community acceptance, cyber security, and integration with traditional aircraft operations. 

Boston has long understood the importance of connectivity and mobility. As a world epicenter for tech research and design excellence, the city offers a template transformative of mobility patterns and lifestyles. AERIAL FUTURES: The Third Dimension will discuss provocative approaches for the safe deployment of UAM vehicles above urban areas and considerations to best prepare cities for the upcoming aerial revolution.




Agatha Kessler

Agatha Kessler has worked as an executive in the worlds of finance and technology, building international businesses in emerging products with VISA and Hewlett-Packard. Energized by the intersection of technology, business and design, in 2007 she joined Fentress Architects as CEO and is currently their Chairman. She holds an MBA and has lived in many cities around the world. Agatha currently serves on a number of boards, including Chairman of AERIAL FUTURES, Opera Colorado and the Design Futures Council. With a keen interest in the future of air travel, Agatha co-founded AERIAL FUTURES at the same time as she started her pursuit of a PhD in Aviation at Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University


andrea shestopalov

Andrea Shestopalov is Product Manager, UTM and oversees product management for AiRXOS’ Unmanned Traffic Management solution, and First Responder applications. Prior to AiRXOS, Andrea was Sr. Director of Product for Exa Corporation, focused on Exa’s computational fluid dynamics solver, geometry pre-processor, realistic rendering visualization and optimization products. Previous to Exa, she worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center on the Constellation Project, leading up database modeling for the Launch Abort System. Andrea’s research background includes aerodynamic optimization with surrogate modeling featuring genetic algorithms, Gaussian processes and Kriging surface approximations. She pioneered the Optimization process for automotive aerodynamics at Exa and holds a patent that lead to the creation of Exa’s latest tool for optimization post processing. Andrea holds an MS and PhD from Stanford University in Aeronautics and Astronautics and has a BS in both Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from UC Davis


charles waldheim

Charles Waldheim is a North American architect and urbanist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Charles’ research examines the relationships between landscape, ecology, and contemporary urbanism. He is author, editor, and co-editor of numerous books on these subjects, and his writing has been published and translated internationally. Charles is John E. Irving Professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design where he directs the school’s Office for Urbanization. He is recipient of the Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome; the Visiting Scholar Research Fellowship at the Canadian Centre for Architecture; the Sanders Fellowship at the University of Michigan; a Visiting Scholar residency at the Architectural Association School of Architecture; and the Cullinan Chair at Rice University



Christopher Petras is a Legal Officer with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Legal Affairs and External Relations Bureau, located in Montreal, Canada. He provides advice and assistance to the Secretary General and, through her, to ICAO organs and Member States, on constitutional, administrative and procedural matters, as well as on problems of international law and air law, and is lead counsel to the Air Navigation Bureau, the largest of the Organization’s five main divisions. Christopher also serves as the Representative of the Secretary General in hearings of staff member grievances before ICAO’s internal administrative review board and appeals before the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) in New York. Prior to joining ICAO in August 2011, Christopher was a uniformed military officer and attorney in the United States Air Force. In 2008, he was the recipient of the U.S. Air Force’s “Thomas P. Keenan Award,” which recognizes its most outstanding attorney in the field of international law. He retired from the service in 2011, after a distinguished twenty-plus year military career.



Curtis Fentress is the Principal Airport Terminal Designer at Fentress Architects, an international design studio he founded in Denver, Colorado, in 1980. He is also the Co-Founder of AERIAL FUTURES. Curtis’ airports have garnered recognition worldwide for design excellence and an outstanding “airside-to-curbside” traveler experience. These include game-changing international airports such as DenverIncheon and the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Recipient of the AIA Tomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in 2010, Curtis has developed a reputation as a hybrid architect, developing iconic design and high-profile public architecture. 


Cynthia Davidson

Cynthia Davidson is Executive Director of the nonprofit Anyone Corporation architecture think tank in New York City and editor of the international architecture journal Log and the former ANY magazine, a tabloid she edited from 1993–2000. She is responsible for more than 40 books in print and oversees the Writing Architecture series published with MIT Press. Cynthia also organizes exhibitions, including co-curating the US Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, and has hosted a number of cross-cultural multidisciplinary conferences on architecture at venues far and wide. Occasionally she writes for periodicals that begin with the letter ‘A’, including ArtforumArquitectura VivaAA Files, and Abitare. A former Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, she was recognized by The American Academy of Arts and Letters with its Architecture Award in 2014.


flavio leo

Flavio Leo is the Director of Aviation and Strategy at the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) where he is responsible for near and long term aviation planning and policy development related to airport physical planning, airfield and airspace safety and efficiency initiatives; noise and emissions policy and testing/adoption of new airfield technologies at Massport’s three airports – Boston Logan International Airport, L.G. Hanscom Field and Worcester Regional Airport. 



Jack Robbins works with public and private clients to create vibrant, sustainable cities, bringing a design-oriented approach to creatively solving complex challenges.  He leads mixed-use development projects spanning urban infrastructure, transportation, multi-family residential developments, and large-scale master plans. He brings a keen understanding of the designer’s responsibility to the public. An active voice in the wider design community, Jack frequently speaks at conferences and teaches in the Real Estate program at NYU. His writing has appeared in Architectural Record, World Architecture, and the New York Times.  He has a Master of Architecture from Yale and an undergraduate degree from Harvard.  



James P. Cramer is the former Executive Vice President/CEO of The American Institute of Architects.  He served on the AIA Board and its executive committee for thirteen years.  He is a Richard Upjohn Fellow of the AIA. In 1994 he founded the journal Design Intelligence and the think tank, The Design Futures Council.  He Chaired the DFC for 20 years and now serves as Chair Emeritus and Senior Fellow. James is an educator, author, and strategist.  He is Faculty Lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Distinguished Professor of Architecture at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  He has written six books on the trends, shifts, and challenges of a rapidly evolving AEC Industry. He is an honorary member of AIA, IIDA, and RIAA.  He is a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council, as well as a Leadership Fellow of the WBSI, La Jolla and Los Angeles. Today, James serves on several governing boards including professional practice, corporate, and not-for-profit. He is also member of several think tanks on the future of the AEC Industry including at the Digital Building Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he offices.


josh springer

Josh Sperling is an ‘Urban Futures and Energy-X Nexus’ engineer and interdisciplinary researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. He is a former Fulbright Scholar, holds a PhD from the Sustainable Urban Infrastructure program at UC-Denver, and co-leads the Urban Science research thrust of the DOE SMART Mobility Lab Consortium. His research combines engineering, planning, policy, and behavioral science approaches to emerging mobility technologies and services, energy and related infrastructure systems, and decisions for quality of life with energy and other co-benefits in cities and communities. Josh has worked professionally on transportation, buildings, energy, water and other urban infrastructure systems development with global firm, ARUP, in New York, San Francisco, Sydney, and Melbourne; and, contributed as co-lead author to the ‘energy transformations in cities’ chapter of a recent assessment report that included >100 urban researchers/authors, globally.


marco giometto

Marco Giometto is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, and research scientist in the computational fluid dynamics team at Amazon Prime Air. His research at Columbia University focuses on the fundamentals of turbulence, and its impact on the transport of mass, energy, and momentum in engineering and environmental systems. Insights from his research have implications in geophysics, engineering, biology, and energy technologies, where heat and mass transfer, evaporation, and skin friction often determine system performance or environmental impact. Before joining Columbia University in 2018, he held postdoctoral positions at the University of British Columbia and at the Center for Turbulence Research, which is jointly operated by Stanford University and NASA Ames.


mario diaz

Mario Diaz is Director of the City of Houston Department of Aviation. He is responsible for the executive leadership of the Houston Airport System (HAS) and its three aviation facilities — George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and Ellington Airport (EFD) — and its more than 1,300 employees. He is one of the industry’s leading authorities in the study of future developments in commercial aviation. In 2013, Mario was named “Airport Director of the Year” by Airport Revenue News Magazine.


marion white

Marion White is a Regional Leader for HOK Architects' Aviation and Transportation practice. She is a licensed architect with more than 30 years' project management, planning and design experience for aviation projects. She has extensive experience in strategic planning, programming and conceptual design of airport terminal masterplans, new terminal construction and renovation of existing passenger terminal facilities. Marion has a special focus on mitigating project constraints and maximizing opportunities when working within an existing airport environment.  She has been involved in a wide range of aviation and transportation projects around the world.


matthias steiner

Dr. Matthias Steiner is a Senior Scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) serving as Director for the Aviation Applications Program of the Research Applications Laboratory (RAL). Drawing from three decades of scientific experience, he leads new initiatives and directs research and development efforts broadly aimed at mitigation of avoidable weather impacts on various sectors, with a particular focus on aviation. Matthias’ vision, leadership, and substantial contributions toward mitigating weather impacts on the aviation industry reach deeply across the traditional boundaries of developing more accurate weather forecasts in order to integrate weather guidance in the decision-making process to better serve aviation operators. At present, he is leading efforts to understand weather sensitivities and requirements for the rapidly growing interests in urban air mobility and using unmanned aerial systems for wide-ranging applications and safe integration into the national airspace system. He has received multiple recognitions for excellent contributions to field programs, scientific missions, and outstanding publications. Most notable, Matthias is a Fellow of both the Royal and American Meteorological Societies.


olivier de weck

Olivier de Weck is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems at MIT. His highly-impactful research focuses on the evolution and design properties of a wide range of complex man-made systems, such as air- and spacecraft, automobiles, and critical infrastructures. A former Swiss Air Force officer, he also holds degrees from both ETH Zurich (1993) and MIT (2001) and was liaison engineer and later engineer program manager at McDonnell Douglas’ F/A-18 aircraft program from 1993 to 1997, and he spent the last two years at Airbus as a Senior Vice President for Technology Planning and Roadmapping.


parker vascik

Parker Vascik is a graduate student with the International Center for Air Transportation (ICAT) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an affiliate of the MIT Strategic Engineering Research Group (SERG). He is a PhD candidate in Aeronautics & Astronautics and is completing a master’s degree in Technology & Policy. His research interests concern the development and application of systems engineering principles to inform decision making on complex socio-technical systems with uncertain futures. Working with the NASA UTM program in 2015, Parker authored a review of the potential impact of operational constraints on the near-term markets for 135 UAS applications. His current research portfolio explores holistic system integration challenges and mitigations for UAS and on-demand mobility aviation.


peng du

Dr. Peng Du is currently the China Office Director and Academic Coordinator at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), and Visiting Assistant Professor in the College of Architecture, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). He has been involved in teaching and coordinating numerous design studios and seminars on tall buildings and sustainable cities, as well as developing proposed/on-going research projects. Peng has been also serving as a Co-Chair of CTBUH Academic & Teaching Committee, juror of multiple international design and research funding competitions, and peer-reviewer of multiple high-quality research journals.


ruby sayyed

Ruby Sayyed is an aviation professional with 16 years of experience. She holds a B.Sc. Degree in Electrical Engineering and started her career as an Aircraft Engineer with Royal Jordanian Airlines, where she then progressed from engineering to operational, safety, and management positions within the airline industry. Ruby joined IATA Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional office in 2010, and then moved in 2014 to Montreal to join the IATA ATM Infrastructure Headquarters team. Within her current role, she drives global ATM policy and advocacy as well as the roll out of global initiatives for ATM efficiency. Since 2016 she’s been leading the project for the safe and efficient integration of UAS into airspace. She is designated as the IATA member to the ICAO Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Panel. 



Samantha Flores is an architect at Corgan in Dallas, Texas. She has 5 years of experience working with Corgan’s Aviation Studio as an experiential design specialist, developing the evolution of the passenger experience. Her research concentrates on in-depth  passenger profiling, design-applied wayfinding analysis, and developing predictions and implementation of new technologies in aviation design. These ideas have developed through her research-driven design work on several projects; one such as the new satellite concourse at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, which upon completion in 2018, will be the largest satellite concourse in the world. Flores received a Masters of Architecture from Princeton University in 2012, and her BArch from Oklahoma State University in 2010.


sarah williams

Sarah E. Williams is the Homer A. Burnell Career Development Chair of Technology and Urban Planning at MIT, where she directs the Civic Data Design Lab. Her research uses data analytics, sensors, and interactive design strategies to communicate and change urban policies. Sarah has been recognized as a Top 25 Thinker at the Intersection of Planning and Technology by Planetizen and a Game Changer by Metropolis Magazine. Her design work has been widely exhibited, including at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the La Biennale di Venezia. Her current exhibition, TheRoad Ahead: Reimagining Mobility, is on view at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City through March 2019. Sarah earned a BA from Clark University, studied landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and earned an MCP from MIT.



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