The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Dufour Reveals Updated Design for Aero3 Tiltwing eVTOL Aircraft

Dufour Aerospace this week provided the latest design for its planned Aero3 hybrid-electric tiltwing eVTOL aircraft. The Swiss start-up has increased the number of wing-mounted propellers from four to six and has added two more propellers on a redesigned tail section that formerly incorporated ducted fans.

According to chief commercial officer Sascha Hardegger, the latest design changes were made to improve performance and increase system redundancy and safety. He told FutureFlight that further design changes could be in the works as Dufour works on a full-scale manned prototype that it aims to start flying in late 2022 or early 2023.

With a projected payload of just over 1,650 pounds, the Aero3 is now expected to have a range of almost 640 miles and a cruise speed of 217 mph. For surveillance missions, this would equate to a flight endurance of 180 minutes.

The Aero3’s powertrain will consist of an as-yet-unspecified turbine engine supporting the eight electric motors that drive the propellers. The company indicated that it may be ready to name partners and suppliers by the end of 2021.

In addition to conducting extensive wind-tunnel testing, the Dufour team has already flown a roughly one-third scale demonstrator aircraft designated the X2.1. This will continue flying in Switzerland while the company works on the X2.2 version, which will be followed by the unmanned X3 prototype and eventually the manned prototype.

The Aero3 is intended for a variety of applications that could include passenger transportation, but also search and rescue, cargo, surveillance, and other parapublic roles. According to Hardegger, who is the former head of helicopter operations with emergency medical support operator Rega, the aircraft could replace a lot of existing rotorcraft, providing more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable performance. Company founder and CEO Thomas Pfammatter is still an active mountain rescue pilot with Swiss operator Air Zermatt.

In tandem, work is also underway to develop the smaller unmanned Aero2 model that would form part of a family of aircraft. It will likely have four propellers but would otherwise be quite similar in terms of aerodynamics.

“The tiltwing design gives both versatility and efficiency,” said Hardegger. “In cruise flight mode you are as fast as an airplane.”

Dufour is now preparing for a further round of fundraising that will mainly focus on the type of professional investors who are already backing the company. The company says it has sufficient capital to support the current pace of development work but has not published a firm timeline for getting the new aircraft to market.