CloudMarch 4, 2024

VoltAero’s Cassio 330: An Example of Innovation Driven by User-Centered Design

French startup VoltAero teamed up with Dassault Systèmes’ DESIGNStudio to enhance its electric-hybrid aircraft with future users’ experience in mind.
Avatar Clara ROUHANI

VoltAero is a French startup that designs and develops electric-hybrid aircraft that can fly for over 3.5 hours and transport up to 12 people. The aircraft can be used for any purpose, from private passenger transport to air taxis, commercial flights, cargo transport and medical evacuation.

The startup’s parallel electric-hybrid propulsion module combines both electric motors and an internal combustion engine, which adapt to different missions. Flights will be fully electric under 200 km, mild-hybrid for shorter-range flights (between 200 and 600 km), and heavy-hybrid for medium-haul and regional trips. The airplane is quieter than similar aircraft and emits 20% fewer emissions when flying in full hybrid mode.

VoltAero debuted Cassio 330, its five-seat version, at the Paris Air show in June 2023. Designed in collaboration with Dassault Systèmes’ DESIGNStudio, the Cassio 330 was developed with user experience in mind.

Perfecting the design of the Cassio 330 with Dassault Systèmes’ DESIGNStudio

Dassault Systèmes’ DESIGNStudio is a multidisciplinary think tank and consultant team dedicated to innovating through design. Its team combines design methodologies and 3D technology on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud to create innovative experiences with companies of all sizes across all industries.

VoltAero’s design, marketing and management teams worked with DESIGNStudio on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to enhance the design of the Cassio 330. The goal was to improve and highlight the aircraft’s capabilities and its facilitated passenger access, while creating an ideal user experience that will encourage future operators and travelers to choose Cassio and its lower environmental footprint over higher-emission aircraft. The project recently won a Janus Design Award from the French Institute of Design.

VoltAero's Cassio 330 aircraft at the Paris Air Show 2023 - Dassault Systèmes
VoltAero debuted the Cassio 330 at the Paris Air Show 2023

Using a design thinking approach, VoltAero and DESIGNStudio worked on four aspects:

  • Defining VoltAero’s brand experience and more specifically the Cassio line’s graphic signature in order to clearly express the startup’s brand identity and value offer.
  • The global architecture of the Cassio line while taking into account technical specifications, usage and range requirements.
  • Creating the interior and exterior layout and design of the aircraft corresponding to the brand experience and technical constraints, including cabin and cockpit layout.
  • Creating an immersive virtual experience of the cabin to share VoltAero’s vision with partners, investors and clients as well as test user experience virtually.

Enhancing the user experience

Design thinking is a user-centered approach that takes into account future users at every step of product development, meaning that teams must collaborate seamlessly and iterate frequently to understand what future users want and create an experience tailored to their needs.

Sketch of VoltAero's Cassio 330 cockpit - Dassault Systèmes
A sketch of Cassio 330’s cockpit

VoltAero and DESIGNStudio factored in future users’ experience from the start. Using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud’s collaborative tools, they worked concurrently to improve the exterior design of the airplane as well as the interiors and layout of the cockpit and cabin. The interior needed to be easily adaptable to the aircraft’s different applications (passengers, cargo, medical evacuation) while remaining comfortable for passengers and accessible to anyone using mobility aids.

Cabin interior of VoltAero's Cassio 330 aircraft - Dassault Systèmes
View of Cassio 330’s cabin

The goal was to create a comfortable environment that would also underline the airplane’s novel technologies. But the team didn’t only improve user experience for passengers. They also created an ergonomic and immersive interface in the cockpit, making it easier to pilot the Cassio 330.

Being able to iterate early and communicate changes seamlessly was crucial to attaining the best results. Using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud enabled the different teams to access all the latest data, modify the design and communicate the changes easily at any time.

Cockpit of VoltAero's Cassio 330 aircraft - Dassault Systèmes
View of the flight instruments in Cassio 330’s cockpit

Testing user experience with virtual reality

Virtual reality was essential for the development of the project, especially for the prototyping and testing stages.

Creating a virtual twin of the Cassio 330 and using visualization tools as well as virtual reality, VoltAero and DESIGNStudio were able to test user experience before building a physical prototype. This helped save on time, costs and materials, as it is simpler and quicker to make changes on a virtual model, which doesn’t require physical materials. It also gave designers and engineers the possibility to make as many changes as they needed to get the best results. 

Cabin of VoltAero's Cassio 330 aircraft - Dassault Systèmes
View of Cassio 330’s cabin and cockpit

Using human avatars on a computer or with a VR headset enabled the team to experience the Cassio 330 from a future passenger’s point of view. Would there be enough space to stand and sit comfortably? Would the boarding process and seating be easy for wheelchair users? What kind of interior lighting would be most comfortable for the pilot and passengers? How much noise would be heard inside the cabin? Considering all these questions, the team adapted the design and layout of the cabin and cockpit to ensure the best possible user experience.

Going further with virtual reality

The aerospace industry is highly competitive, with countless companies developing more sustainable aircraft every year. It was important to showcase the Cassio 330’s sleek lines and abilities so that VoltAero could share its vision with partners, investors and clients. Using real-time visualizations in various scenarios (night, day, different weather conditions…) and VR headsets allows anyone to visualize the aircraft in different situations and configurations.

The startup is also using virtual reality for applications such as design validation, manufacturing and training, as explained by Julien Gervais, CVE, lead avionics, autopilot systems and airworthiness engineer at VoltAero.

“We’re developing VR with Dassault Systèmes. Mainly at the beginning for this air show, so we can see at the 1:1 scale our preliminary design of the Cassio 330. But we’ll use it as well for the design review and also the HMI [Human-Machine Interface], and the human factor perspective. We’ll also use it for the production line to manage which piece we’ll mount before another one and so on.”

VoltAero has already received over 200 pre-orders for its Cassio aircraft product line. The startup’s next steps are the first test flights of the Cassio 330, followed by certification and production.

Curious to learn more?

Discover how to optimize your designs on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud or how to apply a design thinking approach in our dedicated e-book.

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