Private jet charter group Vista Global is the main investor in a Series B funding round for eVTOL aircraft developer Dufour Aerospace. In a January 23 announcement, the Swiss-based start-up confirmed that Vista has joined existing investors and two new backers in providing an undisclosed capital investment in its plans to bring the Aero2 and Aero3 vehicles to market.
Vista has not said whether it intends to operate Dufour’s eVTOL aircraft as part of its charter business. The group has subsidiaries including VistaJet, Air Hamburg, and Jet Edge, which offer private charter flights.
This week, Vista Global reported a 50 percent year-over-year revenue increase driven by a 74 percent rise in VistaJet’s membership program for frequent flyers. The company acquired 117 new aircraft last year and now operates a global fleet of more than 360 business jets.
“We are looking forward to supporting the team at Dufour in advancing their sustainable aviation solutions with huge potential to supplement Vista’s global service network in the future,” said Vista Global founder and chairman Thomas Flohr. “It is an exciting time for Dufour, and this investment is in line with our strategy of supporting environmental air mobility solutions which further reiterates our commitment to ensuring a greener future for our industry."
This new funding will help support Dufour’s ongoing development of its Aero family of hybrid-electric eVTOL aircraft. The company’s flagship aircraft, the Aero 3, is an eight-seat, piloted eVTOL that the company plans to offer for emergency medical transportation as well as private air taxi operations. It can carry 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds) of payload to distances of up to 551 nautical miles, cruising at a speed of 189 knots. The Aero 3 has a distributed electric propulsion system with six main propellers mounted on the front of a tilting wing and two additional vertical lift propellers mounted on the tail. It is expected to achieve type certification in 2025, with deliveries beginning in 2026.
Dufour is also developing the smaller Aero 2, which is an autonomous VTOL tiltwing drone that can carry up to 40 kg (88 pounds) of payload. While the Aero 2 has a similar design to that of the Aero 3, it has only four propellers mounted on the wing, and it has a much shorter range of 216 nm and a slower cruise speed of 92 knots. It says the Aero 2 could be useful for search and rescue operations, terrain and infrastructure surveillance, and the transportation of medical cargo, such as blood, vaccines, and human organs bound for transplant surgeries.
According to Dufour the Aero 2 will be certified in Europe under EASA’s rules covering light uncrewed air vehicles, with the expectation that the FAA will validate this approval for the U.S. market. Type certification of the Aero 2 is anticipated by the end of 2024, with first deliveries to follow in 2025.
Over the past year or so, a growing number of private aviation service providers have started seeking roles in the advanced air mobility sector. These include competitors of Vista such as NetJets, Blade, Volare, Globe Air, and Luxaviation.