Dufour Aerospace, the Swiss company specializing in electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has unveiled the final design and specifications for its Aero2 drone. Designed as an unmanned aerial vehicle, the Aero2 features a hybrid-electric propulsion system and an aerodynamically optimized tilt-wing design. Serving as a precursor to the Aero3, a larger tilt-wing aircraft capable of supporting both unmanned and crewed operations, the Aero2 showcases Dufour Aerospace's commitment to innovative aviation solutions.
Simon Bendrey, Head of Design at Dufour Aerospace, stated,
"Aero2 is an uncrewed aerial vehicle without equal. It has the capacity to transport up to 40 kg (88 lbs) over a distance of 400 km (215 NM). Achieving the necessary safety and aerodynamic efficiency in its structure and systems was a challenging task. I am particularly proud of our teams' dedication in finalizing a design that will meet or exceed our customers' demanding requirements."
The design of the Aero2 has evolved significantly from the original prototype. It now features an H-tail configuration with an enlarged fuselage and wingspan, as well as a wing profile optimized for its intended applications, such as critical goods transportation, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) aerial surveying, and public safety missions.
Moreover, Dufour Aerospace has made progress in the hardware and software control systems architecture, ensuring that all flight-critical systems of the Aero2 are fully redundant. This redundancy allows for operations in uncontrolled airspace over sparsely populated areas, meeting the Specific Assurance and Integrity Level IV (SAIL IV) requirements set by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Dufour aims to obtain certification under the more stringent SAIL VI standards defined by EASA for operations over populated areas. The company is currently conducting rigorous testing, both through simulations and real-world conditions, at its facilities in Dübendorf/Zurich and Visp, Switzerland.
To power the Aero2, Dufour has partnered with Suter Industries to develop a hybrid-electric propulsion system. This system is currently undergoing testing and will be integrated into the X2.3, the final pre-production prototype. The X2.3 will incorporate all crucial systems, including automated flight functionalities, providing a comprehensive evaluation of the aircraft's performance.
In May, the company secured a grant of CHF2.5 million (USD$2.8 million) from Innosuisse, the Swiss Confederation's innovation agency. Additionally, in January, Dufour successfully closed a Series B financing round led by Vista Global. The company also made headlines in late 2022 when it announced the largest civilian drone purchase in U.S. history through its collaboration with Spright, the drone division of Air Methods. Spright has committed to acquiring 40 Aero2 drones, with options for an additional 100 units.
Joseph Resnik, President and CEO of Spright, expressed confidence in Dufour Aerospace's capabilities and the potential of the Aero2. Resnik stated,
"Dufour Aerospace is working diligently on the development of the Aero2, and we have full confidence in their ability to deliver this innovative product. We have been closely collaborating with the Dufour team for over a year now and are impressed with the progress being made. With input from our existing and potential customers, we see tremendous potential for this aircraft across various applications. We eagerly await the start of serial production."
Looking ahead, Dufour Aerospace is proceeding with the procurement of materials necessary for the construction of X2.3, the final prototype before the entry-into-service aircraft. X2.