Who pilots the Dufour Aerospace Aero2?

Daniel Bazzani Dufour SM

The Aero2 is Dufour’s innovative unmanned drone, capable of delivering 40 kg of payload up to 400 km distance, or 20 kg of payload over 1000 km. The entry into service product is intended to be automated, allowing an operator to manage the Aero2 mission from a ground station console.

We spoke with Daniel Bazzani, Lead Engineer for Flight Test at Dufour Aerospace, to explore how new Dufour Aerospace customers will operate this state-of-the-art drone aircraft.

So, how does an operator execute a mission with the Aero2?

Daniel Bazzani (DB): The operator pre-programs the mission, which include a takeoff, a set of mission waypoints, and a landing profile. Because of this simplicity, they could be operating more than one Aero2 at a time, and they won’t be the ones flying the plane, or moving a joystick. Instead, the Aero2 is flies itself, based on waypoints and profiles that have been pre-programmed ahead of time. We plan to develop an ecosystem for streamlined operation. Users can access checklists, maps, and mission planning tools within these tools. Operators can also set payload configurations and check center of gravity limits in order to ensure takeoff readiness. The checklist will be integrated seamlessly into the aircraft’s systems. This integration simplifies the checklist process, enhancing efficiency for the operator.

Is the software for mission planning developed by Dufour?
DB: Yes. Dufour is developing the software to ensure seamless integration with the Aero2’s unique features, such as its tilt-wing design and robust flight control systems.

Can operators manually pilot the Aero2, or is full automation the ultimate goal?
DB: Initially, our focus is on pre-planned missions with limited in-flight modifications. Of course, future adaptations could allow for greater flexibility based on customer needs. Our aim is to reduce operator workload while allowing mission flexibility to ensure safe and efficient operations.

So, once I’ve received my Aero2, what does the training look like? How much training is needed for an operator?

DB: Training begins with ground school, covering aircraft familiarization, operational constraints, and regulatory compliance. Operators then progress to simulator training, which simulates normal and failure scenarios, preparing them for real-world operations. With the Aero2, the aircraft flies automatically while the operator manages the mission.

Given that so much of the flying is automated, how advanced is the automation in the Aero2 system?

DB: The automation system is already at a very advanced level. It has been developed completely in-house and has been refined on data from thousands of real full transition flights to ensure safe and robust performance.

So far, what milestones have been achieved with automation?

DB: The testing of our automation has made great progress. With our current test aircraft we have been able to demonstrate automatic takeoffs, transitions, waypoint navigation, and emergency procedures. We’re continuously advancing our automation capabilities to align with our entry into service goals for Aero2.

We are on a great path to building a fully automated hybrid VTOL Aero2. Exciting times in aviation!

Optimized by Optimole