Startup Spotlight: AURA AERO
AURA AERO is a French advanced air mobility (AAM) startup with ambitions of building a family of electric regional aircraft that can help usher in a revolution in sustainable air travel. But first, the company wants to prove its technology on a two-seat trainer before scaling onto a larger, 19-seat electric regional aircraft.
“The strategic plan we settled on was to go to progressively bigger and cleaner aircraft,” AURA AERO President Jérémy Caussade tells the AAM Report. “We started with a small one because we had to demonstrate we were actually capable of designing an aircraft, building the prototype, doing the certification work and setting up production. As we go, we’re gaining experience for the 19-seater too, because there is a lot of commonality between the two aircraft.”
Aura Aero’s two-seat hybrid-electric trainer, dubbed the INTEGRAL E, will be based on a thermal engine version of the clean-sheet aircraft that is in the final stages of type certification with the FAA and European Union Aviation Safety Agency. This year, the company is beginning electrify its two-seater aerobatic trainer with Electric Power Systems’ (EPS) EPiC battery system and Safran’s smart EngineUs electric motor, which is capable of generating over 100 kW of power; first flight of a prototype aircraft expected later this year.
Caussade says the INTEGRAL E’s maximum flight endurance of one hour at service entry—expected in 2025—makes it ideal for aerobatic, training or towing missions. The aircraft has received more than 100 letters of intent (LoI) from potential customers. “It’s one of the first operational applications of electric aircraft that can be usable by military training, civilian training for upset prevention and recovery, aerobatic and other applications,” Caussade says.
He explains that knowledge gained from the company’s INTEGRAL E development process will feed into the design and development of the larger, 19-seat planned hybrid-electric regional aircraft, called ERA, which the company anticipates entering service around 2028 and leading to even bigger variants that could extend into the 40-70-seat large regional-jet category.
By the end of 2022, the startup had announced more than 330 LoIs for the ERA, which has a typical range of 300 nm and a maximum range of 800 nm, including hybrid reserves. Featuring six sets of propellers and a dual-tail configuration, the aircraft is designed to take off using only the battery to reduce noise, with the turbine engine active during cruise flight for added range.
Caussade says he sees a large market opportunity for low-emission, 19-seat regional aircraft in the cargo and logistics sectors, as well as Part 135 on-demand and charter services, noting the company also can remove seats in the cabin and make room for more battery packs, adding range and space for a luxury or business-travel application.
AURA AERO earlier in March received approval to launch construction of its new aircraft production facility at Toulouse-Francazal Airport in France, which the company says will be fully active by 2024, and eventually be capable of building up to 50 INTEGRAL and 100 ERA aircraft per year.