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Spright has announced an agreement to purchase up to 140 Aero2 hybrid eVTOL aircraft from Swiss manufacturer Dufour Aerospace. The agreement includes the purchase of 40 unmanned Aero2 aircraft and options for an additional 100 aircraft.
This is the largest commitment by an operator for the Aero2 to date, and is said to be one of the largest civilian unmanned aerial vehicle purchases in U.S. history.
Spright is the drone division of Air Methods, a provider of helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) in the U.S.
The company plans to use Aero2 aircraft to transport medicine, medical supplies and lab specimens over medium to long distances. Those specimens may eventually include human organs, as well as blood tests and human tissue removed for analysis, said Joseph Resnik, president of Spright.
“Part of Air Methods’ mission is to not just save lives, but to improve patient outcomes,” Resnik said in a virtual press conference on Nov. 4. “And a big part of that is moving medicine, equipment or specimens over medium- to long-range distances in a more efficient and faster manner. The Aero2 will give us the ability to do that, especially in rural locations, where a lot of times, healthcare is not as efficient.”
The Aero2 is an unmanned, tilt-wing aircraft with four motors powering four rotors that enable vertical take-off before transitioning to forward flight. Two tail fans provide additional thrust. It is designed to carry payloads of 40 kilograms (88 pounds) in standard configuration and 20 kg (44 lb) in long-range configuration.
The aircraft’s maximum flight time is listed at three hours while operating in hybrid-electric mode, and is said to provide one hour of “pure electric” flight. Its cruise speed is listed at up to 170 kilometers per hour (105 miles per hour).
“We are delighted by the confidence shown by Spright in Dufour Aerospace, evidenced by [Spright’s] purchase announcement for the Aero2,” said Thomas Pfammatter, CEO of Dufour Aerospace. “We are even more pleased that our design has withstood the critical gaze of an experienced operator who knows what kind of products end users and the market needs. The timing for this cooperation is right. Before, but especially during pandemic times, the need for transportation of medical goods and other critical cargo over medium and long distances to remote locations has clearly been demonstrated.”
He said more and more private players, public institutions and government organizations are interested in using long-range drone capabilities to benefit people and improve the efficiency of operations.
Dufour has two Aero2 prototypes completing test flights in Europe, and the company expects the aircraft to be certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration around the end of 2024. Deliveries are expected to start in early 2025.