Dufour Aerospace’s AERO 2 Model

Dufour Aerospace’s AERO 2 Model
Courtesy by Dufour Aerospace

Dufour Aerospace’s AERO 2 Model

Meta: Dufour now aims to have a manned, full-scale prototype in flight tests by around late 2022 or early 2023. 

With the Aero 1, Dufour Aerospace has developed an electric-powered aerobatic aircraft, now working on the Aero 3, a hybrid-electric eVTOL that seats five to seven passengers. The Aero 2 is a smaller, two-seat model that has been shelved for now.

The European Union's Horizon 2020 program has provided some funding to the privately owned company. Aero 3 type certification has not been scheduled. An eVTOL prototype was designed based on the design of a technology demonstrator that was undergoing flight testing on July 27, 2020. 

The tiltwing design will have a hybrid-electric propulsion system, according to Jasmine Kent, co-founder and chief technology officer. In the vertical takeoff and landing mode, the aircraft will use battery power, then switch to a conventional engine for cruise flight. 

The eVTOL model is expected to be adopted by helicopter operators for roles such as passenger transportation and emergency medical evacuation. In terms of Aero 3 performance, almost no details have been provided by the company so far. On its website, the company shows a hypothetical flight from Milan in northern Italy to Zermatt in Switzerland. It suggests that the aircraft could complete the 80-mile flight in 22 minutes, implying a cruise speed of almost 220 mph. As a comparison, Dufour claims that the 144-mile drive would cost CHF 164.40, compared to CHF 88.2 for this trip. These costs are not explicitly stated if they are calculated per passenger. 

A large-scale model of the Aero 3 aircraft will be tested in the wind tunnel by Dufour as part of an undisclosed grant from the Innosuisse Swiss Innovation Agency on August 16, 2020. During the new tests, aerodynamic effects will be analyzed during the transition phase between takeoff and cruise, as well as between cruise and hover. Aero 3's design will be refined based on the results. Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule in Zurich began testing in January 2021. Research is also being conducted at the Swiss ZHAW university's engineering department. 

550 flights were conducted by the Dufour team over the summer of 2020 as part of the first phase of flight testing. During these phases, there were complete transitions between hovering and cruising.

As of June 21, 2021, Dufour will distribute the Aero 3 through Japan's AirMobility. An unspecified number of aircraft can be purchased by the Tokyo-based company.

A comprehensive set of specifications and projected performance details for the Aero3 model was published in August 2021 by the company. Following a redesign, two more propellers were added to the wing, and two fans were replaced on the tail. In addition to its 640-mile range and 1,600-pound payload, the aircraft is expected to perform diverse tasks, including passenger transportation, emergency medical support, surveillance and freight deliveries. In late 2022 or early 2023, Dufour plans to fly a manned, full-scale prototype and get the aircraft certified by the EASA's special-condition rules for light unmanned aerial systems.

Savback Helicopters was appointed distributor for Dufour Aerospace's Aero2 and Aero3 eVTOL models in January 2022. The distributor will market the Aero2 model and focus on finding commercial operators for the Aero3 model. In April 2022, Dufour Aerospace announced a partnership with helicopter marketing specialist Blueberry Aviation. As part of trade-in deals, Blueberry will market both the Aero2 and Aero3 models. It will acquire 100 units of each model.

For their Aero2 and Aero3 designs, Dufour also began recruiting Canadian software engineers in April 2022. Aero3 is considered a suitable replacement for helicopters, and Dufour plans to have the design certified by 2025 and to begin deliveries by 2026.

It was announced in early October that Ruag, a Swiss company that specializes in aerostructures and aircraft modification, would contribute to the Aero2 project. As for the larger Aero3 aircraft, the company would not comment.

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