Dufour Aerospace has just announced that it has completed the first phase of flight testing of its tilt-wing eVTOL demonstrator aircraft. Over the course of 550 test flights, expanding the flight envelope incrementally, the vehicle demonstrated a high degree of stability and control in all conditions, including transitions from hover to cruise and back again.
During the first phase of testing, Dufour’s test vehicle executed full transitions to and from wing-borne cruise flight, as well as other highly precise aerodynamic maneuvers. Felix Rubin, lead engineer for aerodynamics, commented, “At larger scales, slipstream airflows over tilting wings become more turbulent and harder to predict, and care is needed to ensure that the aircraft remains stable during transition. With this large-scale unmanned aircraft, we’ve now been able to demonstrate that we can achieve that stability at high Reynolds numbers.”
The company has amassed over 30 years of experience in Swiss commercial helicopter operations, and is now applying its deep technical roots to the real world requirements of VTOL aircraft. Below is a short clip of the impressive footage that Dufour shared with the public in their latest press release:
Dufour was initially inspired by Canadair’s pioneering work fifty years ago with the CL-84, and its research since then has shown that tilt-wing convertible aircraft offer a high degree of safety and efficiency. Co-founders Dominique Steffen and CEO Thomas Pfammatter also collaborated on the aEro 1 electric aerobatic plane that debuted in 2016.
Chief Technology Officer Jasmine Kent — a software engineer who spent eight years with Google and co-founded the artificial intelligence (AI) startup Daedalean — joined the company in 2017. Kent commented, “From our simulations, we expected that our proprietary tilt-wing control system, developed over the last two years in collaboration with ETH Zurich, would perform well. But it’s encouraging to see that its performance and stability exceeded our expectations.”
Thomas Pfammatter, CEO, commented, “I’m proud that the team has been able to build on the electric propulsion technology and flight test processes we pioneered with aEro 1. We now have solid experience with both manned electric fixed-wing and eVTOL technology. As a helicopter rescue pilot, I’m looking forward to bringing these together.”
Why it’s important: Dufour aims to begin manufacturing a full-sized experimental VTOL prototype next year, with flight testing to begin with a human test pilot by 2022. With over 550 test flights of experience, the company has proven its technology and built its case for moving forward with manufacturing in the near future. In the meantime, Dufour also plans to continue collaboration efforts with Daedalean, developer of an AI-based autopilot, to eventually enable autonomous flight for its eVTOL demonstrator.
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Source // Dufour Aerospace press release