ScienceOctober 11, 2023

BSA | Taking Aviation to the Next-Level | An Executive Chat

Exclusive Q and A session with the CEO of Blue Spirit Aero, Olivier Savin and the Dassault Systèmes executives who work closely with the brand.
Avatar Tom Acland

Upgrading Your Business Model with Experience Ecosystems – while supply and distribution networks are the lifeblood of manufacturing, software-defined products and always-on direct customer relationships grow in different kinds of ecosystems. Makers of advanced products like cars and planes are forming alliances with suppliers and technology companies to deliver the next generation vehicle platforms to power future mobility experiences. In this session, pioneering CEOs will share their experience and advice for constructing cutting-edge industry clusters.

Meet Blue Spirit Aero BSA

Aviation innovation is happening at a rapid pace and we’re thrilled to sit down with Olivier Savin, CEO of Blue Spirit Aero, a brand with the ambition to define hydrogen-powered aviation. 

They are not only introducing a new vehicle, they are introducing a new way to fly. Under the hood, the Dragonfly features a hydrogen-fueled propulsion system, which delivers more sustainable and cost-effective power, clearing the runway for experience-driven flight. Business performance is dependent on the health of a completely new ecosystem, from designers to end users. 

Meet the Dragonfly

BSA introduced the Dragonfly to market at the 2023 Paris Air Show. Their mission is to inspire customers, investors, and enthusiasts to embrace their brand and establish a new aviation vertical together. 

Tom Acland [CEO, 3DEXCITE] and David Ziegler [VP, Aerospace & Defense Industry, Dassault Systèmes] sat down for a chat with Olivier.

Q. [DZ]: Give us the rundown on Blue Spirit Aero. What is its mission?

A: [OS]: Blue Spirit Aero (BSA) was founded in 2020, in a context where reducing the carbon and noise footprints linked to aviation has become of paramount importance for the public, the decision-makers and the users.

To address these challenges, BSA is developing a family of innovative zero-emission light aircraft relying on hydrogen technologies, with a low noise signature, an unrivaled level of safety and very modest operational costs.

Q: [DZ] The challenge of decarbonization of flight is bigger than just one company. How does BSA work with others to achieve this lofty goal? 

A: [OS]: ]: Throughout its development, BSA has entered into key partnerships to ensure its aircraft will be perfectly positioned to enter service when the market requires it.

Established industry partners from the aerospace community are currently contributing to the detailed design of the aircraft, while players from the hydrogen world are working alongside with BSA to devise solutions which will ensure hydrogen refueling operations at airfields will be achievable in due time.

Dassault Systèmes plays a central role in this global collaborative environment, providing BSA and its partners with the right tools and working practices to enable cost-effective, reliable and harmonized product development activities.

Q: [DZ] How has working from a Virtual Twin allowed different people to converge around a common goal? 

A: [OS]: A central piece of this development environment is the Virtual Twin Experience, which allows all the involved parties to share a common vision of what needs to be collectively accomplished, and the effort (resources, timeframe, organization, etc.) it takes to get there.

Not only does it help them visualize the same object under its subsequent stages of development, from various locations and various work environments (BSA’s technical team is split between Paris, Toulouse and Adelaide, Australia), but it also allows them to jointly fine-tune its design, simulate its performances, anticipate its operational characteristics and, as importantly, devise the way it will be produced, homologated, maintained and eventually dismantled.

The Virtual Twin really is a key enabler of our sustainable business innovation which will be extensively used across the full product lifecycle.

Q: [TA] Talking to you, Olivier, you seem to define your aircraft, not just as a collection of features, but as a collection of experiences; if you could pick one experience you want to improve for one user, what would it be?

A: [OS]: It is of great importance for BSA to account for all the constraints related to the exploitation of the aircraft, throughout its entire life span, very early on in the design phase.

Understandably, the maintenance of a brand-new aircraft which relies on an energy vector which has never been used before in aviation is already a subject of concern for our future customers. As the designer of the product and offeror of such an innovation, BSA has to proactively provide all the answers to the questions the users will have when operating their aircraft.

The Virtual Twin will soon be providing key insights in this process, by allowing for a fine description and a thorough characterization of the tasks which will have to be undertaken when maintaining our aircraft. For instance, the highly realistic simulation of the actual operations to be conducted when maintaining the propulsion system (dismounting and removal of parts, repair, remounting, etc.), and the subsequent analysis of their durations and costs will help BSA provide quantitative comparisons, to its benefit, against those of a conventional aircraft.

Q: [TA]: Let’s go behind the scenes in preparation for your market debut. How does a model of user experiences help orchestrate the storytelling in sales and marketing?

A: [OS]: When preparing for the public release of our project at the Paris Air Show last June, we understood that the best way to convey our key messages was to make extensive use of insightful visuals, in addition to exhibiting tangible hardware.

In other words, we meant to display both the digital and the physical sides of our ongoing work: on the one hand, a giant screen was used to show a variety of images illustrating the activities currently taking place to constitute our Virtual Twin, and on the other hand, physical objects were used to provide a real touch-and-feel experience for the visitor, including a scale 1 mock-up of our aircraft cabin in which people could actually sit.

The purpose of the realistic user experiences which were shown on the giant screen behind the cabin was to enhance the merits of our dual work: for example, one could physically enjoy the representative environment of the physical cabin mock-up and, a minute later, picture themselves flying the aircraft in the very same environment, but digital this time, by immersing themselves in a realistic video shown on the wall.

Likewise, the experience of discovering the physical mock-up of our electro-propulsive unit was enhanced by the visualization, at the same time, on a tablet screen, of the energy fluxes taking place within the system.

Judging by the very positive feedback we gathered from our visitors, the objective of clearly explaining the duality of our development approach, both digital and physical, was fulfilled!

Q: [TA]: How important is the support of aviation enthusiasts to achieving the BSA ambition, and what can we do together to inspire the general public?

A: [OS]: Aviation enthusiasts, such as the visitors we welcomed at our booth at the Paris Air Show, do not believe that aviation is doomed to faint out and eventually vanish, or even that its future should be dictated by the supporters of the “flight shame”.

On the contrary, many share our vision that a new, virtuous, aviation can emerge, based on clean technologies which have now become mature enough to be safely and cost-efficiently used on aircraft. And many, along with BSA, also believe that such innovative solutions, by offering new services and new means of aerial transportation, have the potential to create a new societal role for aviation altogether.

There still is a major conviction action to undertake to ensure hydrogen aircraft, such as ours, will eventually meet general public adoption. Let’s just remember that it was largely believed, when the automobile was introduced in the streets a bit more than a century ago, that it would never replace horse-drawn carriages. Yet it did in a matter of a decade! And needless to say, the automobile was not being promoted by the horse sellers at that time…

We are facing the same type of situation with aviation today and the general public needs to be made fully aware of the inevitable coming of such breakthrough solutions. There is no better demonstration to carry out than showing concrete examples of an imminent deployment. Here again, the Virtual Twin can be a unique promotion tool which may exhibit, in the most realistic fashion, what is coming up shortly in the skies.

Q: [DZ]: Where is BSA going in the next three years?

A: [OS]: BSA has based its development on a dual approach, the Virtual Twin on the one hand, the real-life technological demonstrations on the other hand. Major milestones have been achieved in both these avenues, and the final steps of demonstrating the proof-of-concept of our solution are now underway. These will culminate with the fabrication of our first scale 1 flying prototype which is planned for a maiden flight by the end of 2024.

The certification process of our commercial aircraft, the Dragonfly®, will then intensify in the following two years, leading to the securing of its type certificate by the end of 2026. Certification is the gateway to commercialization and the entry into service our Dragonfly® is therefore anticipated by early 2027.

While these technical development activities unfold, BSA is securing a large number of LOIs (Letters Of Intent) from customers who have realized the soundness and the relevance of our offering. Operators know that they need to operate cleaner, more cost-efficient and performant aircraft as early as possible, because of (i) the increasing societal pressure they endure, (ii) the aging of the current fleet and (iii) the large demand coming from the market, in particular from the pilot training segment.

BSA currently works hand in hand with its customers to thoroughly understand their needs and fine tune the product which will perfectly fulfill the market demands.

Thanks to a dedicated approach where certification-oriented design, cost-effective development and high value partnerships combine, the future of aviation is in the process of becoming the present!

Join us in Darmstadt!

Meet Olivier at the 3DEXPERIENCE Conference in Darmstadt on October 18th-19th in the session: Upgrading Your Business Model with Experience Ecosystems. See you there

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