V-Star’s Tony Laws on building an AAM industry in Australia

Avatar for Gerrard CowanBy Gerrard Cowan | August 17, 2022

Estimated reading time 7 minutes, 52 seconds.

V-Star Powered Lift Aviation recently announced a deal with Dufour Aerospace to acquire VTOL aircraft for the Australian market and the wider Oceania region. The agreement will see V-Star purchase 25% of the first two years of Dufour’s manufacture of its two hybrid-electric, tilt-wing platforms: the Aero2 drone and the Aero3 eight-seater aircraft.

Dufour Aerospace
V-Star Powered Lift Aviation is looking to bring advanced air mobility to Australia and has recently partnered with Dufour Aerospace to purchase 25% of the first two years of Dufour’s manufacture of its two hybrid-electric, tilt-wing platforms. Dufour Aerospace Image

V-Star is a new Australian company formed through the merger of two South Australian aviation businesses. It plans to operate a mixed fleet of different aircraft, including the Dufour platforms, though further details could not be provided at the time of writing for reasons of business confidentiality.

One of V-Star’s founders, Tony Laws, has long worked in the aviation sector, including establishing Australia’s Airmid Training Solutions. In an interview with eVTOL.com, he described the backdrop to V-Star’s work with Dufour and his vision for the potential of the aircraft in the Australian market.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

eVTOL.com: Could you outline your work with Dufour and how you plan to use the aircraft?

Tony Laws: The issue we have in Australia is the tyranny of distance, with a lot of remote communities and remote cities. Ultimately, we want to connect rural communities to the infrastructure in the big cities.

That means there’s two distinct business cases — transport and logistics on the one hand, and emergency medical services (EMS) and search and rescue (SAR) on the other. That’s why we’ve gone for a mixed fleet — some lend themselves more to SAR and EMS applications and some to regional transport. Our agreement with Dufour means we’ve got options on 100 Aero2 UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] and 100 Aero3s.

eVTOL.com: Could you provide more detail on V-Star’s role?

Tony Laws: We want to offer a holistic service. We want to be able to offer training, set up the infrastructure, and support our customers with engineering. We have an engineering facility in one of our hangars, so we want to help our customers operate the aircraft. We also want to do some operating ourselves.

We want to set up a flight school, which is a priority for us — getting the appropriate instructors and getting our own AOC [air operator certificate]. Our ambition is to be the first powered-lift company in Australia to have our AOC.

eVTOL.com: Do you plan to develop the technology yourself?

Tony Laws: That’s a good question. We are very close to gaining manufacturing rights. I can’t tell you which company yet, but we’re close to getting a deal to manufacture powered-lift aircraft under license for this region, which is really exciting.

The government has supported us in getting that manufacturing ability — we want to basically build this industry and build aeroplanes. Once the industry is established, we forecast a real potential for growth and demand for aircraft. Most of the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] are in the northern hemisphere. Therefore, a manufacturing ability here to support this growth is viable.

eVTOL.com: Could you tell us more about your infrastructure plans?

Tony Laws: We want to work with local governments in Australia in setting up their vertiports. That would obviously create jobs, and the government has been very supportive. We are working with a company called Skyportz, whose expertise is in planning and infrastructure — in planning laws, for example. We’re working with them and the local government to build the infrastructure that will allow a city-to-city service.

But V-Star isn’t just focused on Australia. Our Dufour agreement is for Oceania, so that also includes New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. We’re looking at setting up a holistic service in the Pacific Islands to offer a similar service.

eVTOL.com: How important could these aircraft be in EMS?

Tony Laws: We’ve been talking to a lot of senior medical consultants in Australia, and a key point is that we spend a lot of money getting people in remote regions to primary care in the cities. And then they’re almost stuck in the cities. These aircraft are cheap to run, so they mean we could start a service to get people home earlier, get them in their local hospitals, close to their relatives, and free up the beds in the city hospitals.

eVTOL.com: Do you see any other potential for the aircraft, for example, in the tourism sector?

Tony Laws: Our business plan is a 300-page document, and we see potential in lots of areas. For example, one of our use cases is the wineries in Australia. They do a lot of bus tours, but the problem is that people often spend say 80% of their time on the bus and only 20% in the winery. We want to reverse that — we would take them around the wineries in the aeroplane, allowing them to spend more time on the tour and not so much time in traveling. That’s just one example of the many use cases for these aircraft.

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