The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Australian Government Funds Plans To Electrify Regional Airliners

The Australian government has awarded Dovetail Electric Aviation a A$3 million ($2.1 million) grant to advance its plans to convert turboprop aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan, the DHC Twin Otter, the Beechcraft King Air, and the Casa C212 to electric propulsion. The grant was one of 19 projects for which the country’s Industry and Science Department this week announced a total of A$44 million in funding through its Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) program.

The award marks a further boost to the start-up’s plans to market electric regional airliners following the December 2022 announcement that Spanish airlines Air Nostrum and Volotea had acquired a minority stake in Dovetail’s European sister company, Dante Aeronautical. The two ventures recently launched a joint Series A funding round to fulfill their ambitions to start deliveries of converted aircraft in 2025.  Dovetail has also received an investment from Australian regional airline Rex, which has shown interest in converting its fleet to electric power with the goal of cutting operating costs by 40 percent. 

“Electric aviation has the potential to be a game-changer for regional transport as Australia pushes to meet our emissions targets,” commented industry and science minister Ed Husic. He also announced the opening of the next round of CRP-C funding, for which applications will close on March 2, 2023.

The University of New South Wales and the government-backed Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation will be involved in the project, too. Sydney Seaplanes, which is part of the parent company for both Dovetail and Dante, will also help to develop, test, and certify the propulsion technology and its integration with the aircraft.

Initially, the partners are seeking a supplemental type certificate to convert the Caravan. They then aim to get approval for another version of the aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel cells and after that, to add retrofits for the King Air, Twin Otter, and C212 between 2027 and 2028.

Dante was founded in 2018 with an initial business model based on developing a hybrid-electric 19-seat regional airliner called the DAX-19. It has since pushed back the start of this project to 2029, with a goal of achieving type certification in 2033.

UK-based aircraft leasing group Monte has previously committed to purchasing 50 converted aircraft on undisclosed terms. This would include a mix of the battery-powered Caravan and a hydrogen-electric King Air.

The battery electric conversions will initially use MagniX’s 650-kilowatt motors and batteries provided by Mobius energy. Under an agreement signed in late 2021, Dovetail and Dante are the exclusive distributors for U.S.-based MagniX in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, and Europe. The companies mainly intend to act as system integrators for the planned propulsion conversion projects.