The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Having developed an electric-powered aerobatic aircraft called the Aero 1, Dufour Aerospace is now focusing on the development of a five- to seven-seat, hybrid-electric eVTOL designated as the Aero 3. For now, it has shelved plans for a smaller, two-seat model called the Aero 2.

The privately-owned company has received some funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 program. It has not published any timeline for achieving type certification for the Aero 3. On July 27, 2020, it reported the completion of a flight test program for a technology demonstrator that it has used to define the design of the eVTOL prototype. 

According to co-founder and chief technology officer Jasmine Kent, the tiltwing design will have a hybrid-electric propulsion system. She told FutureFlight that the aircraft will use battery power during vertical takeoff and landing mode, before switching to a convention engine for cruise flight. 

Dufour envisages helicopter operators as being early adopters of the eVTOL model, using it for roles such as passenger transportation and emergency medical flights. To date, the company has provided almost no details about the projected performance of the Aero 3. A chart on its website shows details of a hypothetical flight from Milan in northern Italy to the Swiss resort of Zermatt. It says the aircraft could complete the 80-mile flight in 22 minutes, suggesting a cruise speed of almost 220 mph. Dufour claims that the cost of this trip would be just CHF 88.2 ($93.35), compared with CHF 164.40 for the 144-mile drive, which it says would take over three hours. However, it does not make it clear whether these costs are calculated on a per passenger basis. 

On August 16, 2020, Dufour announced that it has received an undisclosed grant from the Innosuisse Swiss Innovation Agency to support wind tunnel testing of a larger-scale model of the Aero 3 aircraft, expanding on tests already run with smaller models. The new tests will focus on aerodynamic effects during the transition phase between takeoff and cruise, and from cruise back to hover. The results will be used to refine the design of the Aero 3. The tests began in January 2021 at Zurich's Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule. The Swiss ZHAW university's engineering department is also involved in the research. 

Over the summer of 2020, the Dufour team completed the first phase of flight testing, conducting 550 flights. These included full transitions between hover and cruise phases of flight.

On June 21, 2021, Dufour announced a distribution agreement for the Aero 3 with Japan's AirMobility. The Tokyo-based company will market the aircraft and has an option to purchase an unspecified number of units.

In August 2021, the company provided the most comprehensive set of specifications and projected performance details yet published for the Aero3 model. This followed a redesign that has seen the addition of two more propellers to a reworked wing, and two to replace fans on the tail section. The aircraft now promises range of almost 640 miles, and a payload in excess of 1,600 pounds that should meet diverse requirements for roles such as passenger transportation, emergency medical support, surveillance and freight deliveries. Dufour aims to have a manned, full-scale prototype in flight tests by around late 2022 or early 2023.

Timeline

test flight

Dufour aims to start flying a full-scale, piloted prototype for its Aero3 hybrid-electric eVTOL tiltwing aircraft by the end of 2022.

test flight

Dufour Aerospace announced the completion of a flight test program for the technology demonstrator for its planned Aero3 eVTOL aircraft. This involved 550 flights.

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

Dufour Aerospace has aviation strong pedigree in its founding team, and has attracted some financial support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 fund. However, it is not clear whether it has sufficient financial backing to bring its planned Aero eVTOL aircraft to market. The company has yet to publish any timeline for the development and has only published a few details about projected performance. 

The completion of a 550-flight test campaign with  a technology demonstrator in the summer of 2020 does suggest the program has achieved some momentum. Also, Dufour claims it is successfully building on lessons learned from its electric Aero 1 aerobatic aircraft.

However, as of April 2021, it had been six months since Dufour had provided any substantive update on further work on the program. At that point, however, it did say that it had received an unspecified amount of further funding from venture capital group Investor Session.

On June 21, 2021, Dufour announced a distribution agreement for the Aero 3 with Japan's AirMobility. The Tokyo-based company will market the aircraft and has an option to purchase an unspecified number of units.

The unveiling of a reworked design for the Aero3, including improved propulsion arrangements, reinforces the view that the company's somewhat gradual evolutionary development process might pay dividends. Great visibility has been given to the program by the publication of far more extensive specifications for the aircraft and performance details. The company has acknowledged that a new funding round will be initiated in order to get the Aero family into production.

Aero Models

Aero 3 Specifications

local vtol Tiltwing

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    7
  • Range
    638 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    217 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    propeller
  • Power Source
    hybrid_fe
  • Endurance
    180 min
  • Max Altitude
    n/a
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    n/a
  • MGTOW
    6,173 lb
  • Payload Weight
    1,653 lb

Dimensions

  • Length
    39.3 ft
  • Width
    n/a
  • Height
    13.1 ft
  • Wingspan
    46.6 ft

In August 2021, Dufour Aerospace more details about the hybrid-electric aEro 3 tiltwing aircraft. It is expected to carry between five and seven passengers and be used for roles currently served by helicopters, such as air taxi and emergency medical flights.

Key Personnel

Thomas Pfammatter, co-founder and CEO of Dufour Aerospace
Thomas Pfammatter

Founder

Dufour co-founder Dominique Steffen
Dominique Steffen

Founder

Jasmine Kent
Jasmine Kent

Founder