New College alum pave the way for drone highways

A red drone in the sky holding a box with city buildings in the background.

New highways in Toronto will reduce pollution and cut commute times before the end of the decade, and all without a single slab of concrete.

A&S alum Bashir Khan, co-founder of AirMatrix, is bringing drone highways to life. Imagine a multi-layered grid drawn above the city, with aerial routes taking countless cars and trucks off the streets every day. Digital infrastructure is requiredand that’s where AirMatrix is a global leader.

“Not far from today, when we look up, we’re going to see a lot more drones,” says Khan, who earned his honours bachelor of arts degree in 2018 as a member of New College

“It’s starting to revolutionize the supply chain and change the way we design cities.”

AirMatrix is on a mission to map 100 major cities worldwide by the end of 2024, deploying the infrastructure of tomorrow, today. It holds many advantages over competitors as one of only software companies licensed by the U.S.-based Federal Aviation Administration, to grant authorized drone pilots access to restricted airspace across America.

“Drones are going from mostly collecting data to carrying small payloads, and then larger payloads; eventually it’s going to be people riding in these things,” says Khan.

“I’m excited about the ability to fly from Toronto to Waterloo in half an hour.”

Preparing for takeoff

Khan was immersed in his student experience at U of T. While earning his degree, he was a captain of the Varsity Blues track and field team, a volunteer with the U of T Robotics Association, and president of the now defunct University of Toronto Black Ties, a student-run networking group that connected racialized students to employment and internship opportunities.

He also worked for a Silicon Valley based ed-tech company, Course Hero, leading their business development efforts in Toronto, helping the private company reach a billion-dollar valuation.

Most importantly, Khan made some lifelong connections while at the university.

“We travelled together, studied together, we worked out together, we’d often go out together. Building close connections and bonds that you cherish, going to U of T is one of the best places for that.”

Inspiration for AirMatrix struck one night in residence as Khan watched an endless parade of Amazon packages arrive at his building.

Learn more about Bashir Khan’s journey and how AirMatrix is helping the world prepare for the future of drone flight by reading the full A&S story by David Goldberg.