The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Dufour Will Bring Autonomous Aero2 eVTOL into Commercial Service

Dufour Aerospace this week confirmed plans to bring its Aero2 autonomous air vehicle into production in 2023 after receiving market interest for commercial applications with the tilt-wing eVTOL model. The hybrid-electric vehicle—which will offer a payload of 40 kg (88 lb) and a flight duration of up to three hours at a cruise speed of almost 106 mph—has been flying as part of the development work for the Swiss company’s larger Aero3 piloted eVTOL.

In a November 4 announcement, Dufour said it intends to certify the Aero2 under EASA’s special-condition rules for light unmanned aerial systems. The company first flew the Aero2 as a technology demonstrator in 2020.

According to co-founder and CTO Jasmine Kent, the start-up will use a succession of prototypes “to add and certify more features such as the hybrid propulsion module, de-icing capabilities, and a usage and health monitoring system. She said that positive reaction from prospective operators to the performance of the first prototype convinced the company of the business case for bringing the Aero2 to market.

The Aero2 is expected to have a range of around 310 miles. “It is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife,” commented Dufour co-founder and CEO Thomas Pfammatter. “This innovative small, unmanned aircraft will greatly support our customers in their activities. With its quickly interchangeable nose cone, it is the perfect tool to carry different customer payloads, be it logistics, topographical surveys, mappings, measurements or for public safety applications.”

The Aero3 is expected to carry up to eight passengers or a maximum payload of 1,650 pounds with a range of almost 640 miles at speeds of 217 mph. In August, Dufour said it had increased the number of wing-mounted propellers from four to six, as well as adding two more propellers on a redesigned tail section that formerly incorporated ducted fans. The company is still refining the design and expects to start test-flying a prototype by the end of 2022, with a goal of achieving type certification by early 2026.

In September, Dufour signed a cooperation agreement with Swiss Air Rescue Rega to develop an air ambulance version of the Aero3. Rega, which has been employing helicopters for almost 70 years in emergency medical and rescue operations, is eager to explore the potential for these to be replaced with eVTOL aircraft.

Meanwhile, Dufour continues to work on its Aero1 all-electric aerobatic trainer aircraft. With a pair of electric motors, the aircraft has also been used as a testbed for the technology to be deployed on both the Aero2 and 3 vehicles, and the company said it will soon make its second test flight.

Pfammatter is an experienced helicopter pilot who still flies rescue missions with Swiss operator Air Zermatt. Last month, he told FutureFlight that Dufour holds letters of intent, mainly from existing helicopter operators, covering prospective sales for both the Aero2 and 3. He said that the company opted to base its eVTOLs on hybrid propulsion, to increase range and payload, and also to avoid the need for purpose-built vertiports with charging stations for all-electric aircraft.

Dufour is also in talks with several logistics companies about switching to eVTOL operations. Pfammatter gave the example of a biotech manufacturer in the Swiss Alps that needs around 1,000 ingredients for each of its medications. “If you are missing even one ingredient, it can bring the whole plant to a standstill,” he said, making the case for versatile and responsive eVTOLs for light freight deliveries.