Interview with Jérémy Caussade

Interview with Jérémy Caussade

“Every part of AURA AERO’s aircraft is developed from the start with sustainability in mind.”

Jérémy Caussade CEO of AURA AERO

AURA AERO is an innovative electric aircraft manufacturer determined to disrupt regional aviation as it is today. The company is wholeheartedly committed to contribute to the objective of reducing emissions by 55% in 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality in 2050. Established as a start-up in 2018 in Toulouse AURA AERO is led by Jérémy Caussade – an aerospace engineer passionate about sustainability.

What is AURA AERO and why are its products different from other aircraft manufacturers?

The level of ambition set by the European institutions to decarbonise aviation is inherently AURA AERO’s: we provide to the industry a range of electric/hybrid aircraft to reach this target in due time. AURA AERO currently develops a two-seater electric aircraft for pilot training and aerobatics, INTEGRAL, and has plans for a regional electric aircraft, ERA, a 19-seater with an entry into commercial service foreseen by 2027.

Every part of our aircraft is developed from the start with sustainability in mind. For instance, we use recyclable batteries, wood for the cabin that is 80% bio-sourced, and low-carbon energy for manufacturing. We also aim at differentiating ourselves through our industrial approach. We see ourselves not only as a startup developing innovative aircraft but also as an industrial integrator; it is only by combining the innovations brought by complementary industrial partners that one can succeed.

How do you see the market evolve - also with regards to the technological decisions investors are making?

Aviation serves human mobility across the world. As an essential mode of transport, it will not disappear but it will transform to become sustainable. An industrial revolution is underway as the whole aircraft fleet worldwide will have to be renewed. Europe must be ready on time to seize this opportunity if it wants to maintain its leadership and create jobs locally.

“Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is only a tactical solution; in parallel to SAF, we need to develop immediately these disruptive aircraft: electric, hybrid, and even hydrogen.”

It would be a mistake to focus only on decarbonising long-haul flights: regional aviation will be the first segment to decarbonise its operations, which will generate new markets for transversal connectivity. Be they national or cross-border intra-EU, shorter direct flights will be offered, independent from the hubs, which will accelerate the ramp-up of decarbonised seats.

Transversal mobility will also benefit from Europe’s dense network of regional airports, which are often under-utilised. Furthermore, when it comes to electric or hybrid aircraft, there is no need for heavy infrastructure but only charging stations. We believe all low-carbon propulsion modes will have an application in aviation; all must be developed in parallel, including hydrogen for the mid-range segment.

What are the biggest challenges for AURA AERO?

We have the agility of a start-up and we are attracting brilliant talents passionate about aviation decarbonisation. However, a start-up aircraft built out of start-up equipment cannot work.

Technologies for electric propulsion require long years of research and development, so we need to build from the experience of the front-runners. For instance, we have a strategic partnership with Safran on the electric propulsion of the aircraft, and on the high voltage distribution systems to be deployed at regional airports.

As an integrator, we have to set directions for our partners, but it is equally important for us to listen to the innovations they are bringing; it is a two-way process. Our first challenge is to keep this balance between innovation and industrialisation, to remain agile while working in close exchange with our industrial partners, who are global players. As I like to say to my teams: “We aim at achieving the verticality of Dassault, the size of Pilatus and the integration capabilities of Tesla”. The second main challenge is, as for any other start-up, raising venture capital.

In your opinion, what can aviation actors, from airspace users to airports, policy-makers and EUROCONTROL, do to make aviation more sustainable faster?

We primarily need from policy makers that they facilitate this industrial revolution, including for the provision of electricity, the deployment of the infrastructures at airport level, and that they free up the necessary public and private funds. It is indeed the whole European economy that is at stake with the energy transition, aviation alone is helpless.

At European level, we consider there is still too much focus on research programs and not enough on industrialisation. We are now at a stage where industrialisation can and needs to be organised. This is a challenging task as it is necessarily multi-sectorial and it will require massive investments, a task that only public institutions can lead. For instance, the “France 2030” plan includes low carbon aircraft as one of its ten objectives. This initiative would deserve to be extended at European level. Policy makers must involve small actors in this cross-sectorial industrial planning: we are the only ones who can bring agility and counterbalance outdated concepts, provided we are allowed to grow from start-ups to mid-size companies. Concerning ATM, we expect EUROCONTROL to act for making ATM modernisation a reality, as promised by the Single European Sky.

The time is now, as these new low-carbon aircraft will also incorporate disruptive navigation technologies, which will enable more dynamic trajectory changes in response to ATM requirements and even support self-separation between aircraft. The US Federal Aviation Association (FAA) has initiated discussions with the industry to converge the roadmaps for low-carbon aircraft with new navigation/ATM capabilities. In Europe as well, we should seize this opportunity to improve drastically the capacity and the cost of air navigation services, while achieving decarbonisation.

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