French Light Aircraft Startup Plans Electric 19-Seater

Aura Aero electric regional aircraft
Credit: Aura Aero

A new French manufacturer has announced its intention to develop an electric 19-seat regional and freighter aircraft with early funding support from regional governments as part of post-pandemic recovery plans for the country’s aviation industry.

Aura Aero unveiled plans for the Electric Regional Aircraft (ERA) March 22 at the inauguration of its assembly line in a historical hangar at Toulouse Francaxal Airport. The startup plans to begin deliveries of its Integral R two-seat aerobatic aircraft by year-end 2021.

The ERA joins a growing list of electrified regional aircraft under development by French startups with initial funding support from regional governments. VoltAero is developing the 4-10-seat Casio family of hybrid-electric aircraft and Avions Mauboussin plans to develop the six-seat Alcyon M3c, first with hybrid-electric power and later hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion.

In addition to the ERA, Aura Aero announced it will develop an electric-powered version of its initial two-seater called the Integral E. Aura was founded in 2018 and the tailwheel Integral R first flew in June 2020. EASA CS-23 certification is planned for this year.

The company’s next aircraft will be the tricycle-gear Integral S, which is scheduled to fly this summer. The electric Integral E is planned to fly in 2022. Aura said it intends to assemble 30 aircraft in 2022 and 50 in 2023, with the goal of reaching 80-100 Integral deliveries a year.

The ERA is scheduled to fly in 2024, with entry into service planned for 2026. Aura has signed a MOU with Verkor, a French startup developing lithium-ion battery cells for electric vehicles. Verkor plans to establish a battery gigafactory in the south of France by 2024.

So far, the government of France’s Occitanie-Pyrenees-Mediterranee region has provided Aura with €200,000 ($238,000) to support development of the Integral R and €1 million for the electric version, plus another €100,000 to support marketing and exports.

The Occitanie Region will also provide €3.5 million to support development of the ERA, Aura said in a statement. This will be within the scope of the MAELE initiative (for Environmentally Responsible Light Air Mobility) launched in November 2020 by France’s Aerospace Valley industrial cluster, which is supported by the Occitanie and Nouvelle-Aquitaine regional governments.

Based in Medis and supported by the Nouvelle-Acquitaine region, VoltAero aims to certify its four-seat Casio 330 by the end of 2022. The company has also received an initial €2.1 million grant from the European Union and is designated for additional financing that includes up to €11 million in equity.

Based in Belfort in northeastern France, Avions Mauboussin is starting with development of the Alerion M1h, a tandem two-seater initially with hybrid-electric and later hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion. The startup is seeking “green aviation” funding support from French regional and national governments.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.