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Savback Helicopters expands into advanced aviation

By Jen Nevans | May 6, 2024

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 50 seconds.

Swedish aircraft distributor Savback Helicopters is opening up its inventory to welcome in the new era of advanced aircraft.

With nearly 35 years of experience and around 1,000 helicopters sold to 76 countries around the world, Savback knows a thing or two about selling aircraft. The company is now looking at the advanced air mobility (AAM) market, particularly seeing potential in hybrid-electric technology.

In fact, one of its priorities looking forward is focusing on hybrid-electric technology and next-generation drones, while also continuing to sell used helicopters — the mainstay of the business.

“So stay with what we have done, but add in and focus on the next-generation approach because we believe that’s a growing market,” Michael Savback, founder of Savback Helicopters, told Vertical.

Its partnership with Dufour Aerospace cements that belief. Savback has been supporting the Swiss uncrewed aircraft and eVTOL developer since 2022, committing to being Dufour’s distributor in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland after its aircraft is ready for the market.

Savback has a simple method it uses when selecting which new original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) it will back, stating that the company opts for “one we trust will make it to the end to certification.”

“We choose partners that are in good contact with the [aviation] authorities, so the rules and regulations are following the product,” Savback said. “There’s so many manufacturers today that start to do things and then they ask the authorities when they’re ready to fly, and the answer [from the authorities] is no.”

With many players in the eVTOL sector, Savback landed on Dufour because of the Swiss aircraft’s hybrid-electric technology and redundancies. Dufour produces a series of Aero hybrid eVTOLs, geared mainly toward two fields of application, according to the company’s chief commercial officer Sascha Hardegger.

“One is critical cargo — the whole field of critical cargo application over longer distances — or what is called middle mile applications,” Hardegger told Vertical.

The second is high-resolution remote sensing, and various surveillance and mapping applications.

Dufour’s Aero2 is slated to enter commercial markets in 2025 in medium-risk applications, over sparsely populated areas. Dufour is also working toward getting the aircraft approved with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to fly over densely populated areas.

The uncrewed tilt-wing aircraft is designed to carry payloads of 40 kilograms (88 pounds) for a distance of 400 kilometers (250 miles) in its standard configuration and 20 kg (44 lb) for 1,000 km (620 mi) in its long-range configuration.

Aero2 has secured interest in the medical transport sector, with first contracts in place and one pre-production prototype having been delivered to a U.S. customer in 2023. 

Also last year, Savback assisted Dufour in landing an agreement with European Medical Drone, the Swedish drone operator that connects hospitals through drone transportation. European Medical Drone is also interested in the Aero2.

Meanwhile, Dufour’s Aero3 is a larger uncrewed or piloted hybrid-electric aircraft. With a range of 1,020 km (630 mi) and a useful load of 750 kg (1,650 lb), the aircraft is slated for several missions, including emergency medical services through interest from numerous helicopter operators like Swiss Air-Rescue Rega.

However, Dufour told Vertical it is conscious that the development and certification of new aircraft requires a lot of resources. The company is therefore currently focusing on the smaller uncrewed Aero2, also with a view to market maturity.

Besides Dufour, Savback also has its sights set on being the distributor for Mayman Aerospace’s AI-powered Speeder P100 UAVs, used for military, critical cargo, and disaster response missions. The partnership stems back to 2022, but the two recently strengthened ties earlier this year when Savback signed a letter of intent to buy 300 of the jet-powered VTOL.

The P100 model has an expected payload of 45 kg (100 lb), and Savback is expecting deliveries to come in between late 2025 to mid-2027.

As far as AAM’s integration into the airspace, Savback said he envisions drones and hybrid-electric VTOL flying side by side with helicopters for years to come “because there are things that you still need to have a helicopter to do, [but] you can do a lot of things with [these new aircraft].”

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