Swiss-based Dufour Aerospace is turning to Canadian engineers to help develop its line of eVTOL aircraft products.
“Montreal boasts high-quality universities and a strong community of software engineers that is second to none, and Canada is the second biggest global helicopter market,” Thomas Pfammatter, co-founder and CEO of Dufour, told media during a press briefing on Tuesday.
Montreal is perhaps a fitting choice for the aerospace company since the region is where the eVTOL developer found inspiration when developing its aircraft products.
“We were initially inspired by the Canadair Dynavert (CL-84), where Canadian engineers established both the aerodynamic principles of tilt-wing flight, and built prototypes with hundreds of hours of flight time,” Pfammatter said.
Dufour plans to hire around 30 software engineers dedicated to designing systems and software for the Aero2 and Aero3 aircraft. The engineers will first work remotely in the region until the company selects a permanent Montreal location.
“When you think of an airplane, you may think of the wings, fuselage, and propulsion system, but one of the most critical features of modern aircraft is the software,” Jasmine Kent, chief technology officer of Dufour, told media.
She said whether an aircraft is manned or unmanned, modern aircraft are increasingly fly-by-wire, and Dufour’s aircraft are fully fly-by-wire.
“So to design our systems, we need talented engineers,” Kent said. “And in Montreal, this community exists.”
Dufour plans to bring two types of aircraft to market, starting with the Aero2 — a small uncrewed drone with a targeted payload of up 40 kilograms (88 pounds) in its standard configuration, a cruising speed of up to 170 kilometers an hour (106 miles per hour), and a range of 400 km (249 mi).
The eVTOL developer is also working on an eight-seat piloted Aero3 aircraft, which Pfammatter said will be “built and designed to replace today’s helicopters.”
With a targeted cruising speed of 350 km/h (215 mph), a range of up to 1,020 km (630 mi), and a useful load of 750 kg (1,650 lb), Dufour claims the aircraft will be able to complete missions that existing helicopters can carry out.
Both aircraft will be powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system and feature a tilt-wing design, which the developers said combines the vertical take-off and landing capabilities of a helicopter, and the energy efficient, high-speed, longer range flight characteristics of a fixed-wing airplane.
Dufour said it has already started flight testing its Aero2 aircraft in Zurich, Switzerland, and expects to receive type certification in 2023 with manufacturing starting in 2024. Its Aero3 is slated for type certification in 2025.
The Swiss company hasn’t chosen a manufacturing site yet, but with Dufour’s new location in Montreal, Kent said the region “is very much a possibility for us.”
Dufour claims the funding it received from its Series A funding round will be sufficient to carry out the eVTOL developer’s activities until the end of this year. The aerospace company is currently working on a Series B funding round, led by a third party.
Earlier this week, Dufour also announced a partnership with Blueberry Aviation, a global commercial aircraft and helicopter marketing specialist, to help distribute its aircraft to potential customers. The deal also includes a pre-order of 100 Aero2 and 100 Aero3 aircraft.