Safran Electrical & Power will supply propulsion systems for a family of new fixed-wing electric aircraft under development by French start-up Aura Aero. In an April 7 announcement, the companies said the partnership covers the initial Integral E light aircraft and the planned 19-seat Electric Regional Aircraft (ERA).
Aura Aero’s two-seat Integral E aerobatic trainer will feature Safran’s smart EngineUs electric motor, capable of generating more than 100 kW, and the GeneUsGrid distribution and protection system. The manufacturer expects the prototype to fly for the first time later in 2022 and anticipates the first deliveries in 2023.
French aviation authorities last November issued Part 21G approval to Aura Aero, marking the first step toward production of its Integral family of light aircraft. The authorization also cleared the company to advance its longer-term goal to develop the ERA model.
Under a memorandum of understanding, aircraft engines and systems group Safran will also work with the Auro Aero engineering team on the electrical architecture studies for the hybrid-electric ERA. The studies will center on the high direct voltage propulsive architecture to deliver the power needed for the electric engines. The work will also include the “non propulsive” electrical architecture used to power the aircraft’s other systems.
Aura Aero plans to fly the ERA for the first time in 2024 and projects commercial service to start in 2027, which is around a year later than the company had previously said. In October 2021, airliner leasing group Amadeo signed a provisional sales agreement covering 200 of the ERAs, which Aero has designed to fly to a range of around 900 miles.
“In every way, these projects are in line with our strategic aims: they feature breakthrough technologies, have a low-carbon footprint, and are electrically powered,” said the general manager and executive vice president of the power division of Safran Electrical & Power, Hervé Blanc. “This agreement bolsters our position as a key player in the fields of equipment electrification and electric and hybrid propulsion. It also marks two Toulouse-based companies—both firmly established in the Occitanie region's industrial fabric—working together.”
France-based Safran now vies directly with UK rival Rolls-Royce to provide propulsion for new electric aircraft. Working through its CFM International joint venture with GE Aviation, the company is also involved in plans to develop hydrogen powertrains for new zero-carbon airliners Airbus plans to bring to market from 2035.
Aura Aero co-founder and chief programs officer Wilfried Dufaud stressed the value of Safran’s contribution to the project, calling the collaboration “essential” for meeting its timeframe goals. “As part of the joint aim to industrialize the production of electric aircraft, Safran is providing its rare expertise in high-voltage networks, which is needed for the Integral E and ERA architectures,” he said. “This collaboration is evidence of our shared determination to decarbonize the aviation sector.”