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Mechanical engineer on weekdays and glider pilot on free time

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As is the culture of Helisul Aviação in these almost 50 years of history, since the foundation, technological pioneering is in the blood and the innovative projects do not stop. The most recent one is aimed at the drone market, specifically for transporting heavier loads and traveling long distances.

And, to embrace this challenge, Helisul relied on all the expertise of aeronautical mechanical engineer Lucas Fontoura, head of Helisul Drones. The professional arrived at the company in March 2019, with the mission of developing a project with sophisticated drones, using the most advanced technology.

“I worked on developing more sophisticated drones on another project. It was at that moment that I found Helisul and Helisul found me. Because the company also intended to carry out this type of operation, flying sophisticated drones over long distances, and was looking for someone who was an expert in the matter”, says Lucas.

At that time, the mechanical engineer was consulting with his company, Certo Drones, which ended up becoming an important partner of Helisul on this journey. Lucas spent three years scouting, creating business development and exploring technologies for the drone department.

In addition to this equipment, the professional was awarded the assignment of developing the market for the so-called eVTOLs – electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles. Both explore the latest technology in the aviation sector, everything Lucas has always sought as a professional.

“Since I started in aviation, I’ve been looking for the frontier with the newest things and automation technology applied in aviation. Helisul opened these two fronts, which are the future that will increase the number of objects flying in our skies”, he celebrates.

Lucas celebrates this moment not only of professional accomplishment, but for being able to contribute with a renowned company like Helisul in this great achievement. “The operation we are structuring is very new on an international level. It’s certainly exciting to work with this level of technology on a worldwide scale.”

A pandemic in the middle of the whole process ended up delaying the launch of the Helisul Drones brand a little. But all the commitment already has a date to become officially known by the market this May, in an event focused on the segment, which will be held in São Paulo.

Flight testing and software development

Before diving into the universe of drones and their advanced technologies, the aeronautical mechanical engineer, graduated in 2012 from the Technological Institute of Aviation (ITA), in São José dos Campos (SP), reveals that he worked in the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and in the manufacturer of Embraer aircraft in the early years of his career.

“I graduated as a military man, I did internships within the Air Force and after I graduated I took the flight test course, which is testing aircraft for flights. It is the last phase of testing inside an airplane. Then I decided to leave the Air Force and join Embraer, where I worked with software development and flight controls [fly-by-wire]”, he says.

Glider pilot in spare time

Lucas was born in Mandaguari, in the north of Paraná, but grew up in Joinville, Santa Catarina. Most of the engineer’s family is from Curitiba, he had even lived in the capital of Paraná before, and the return was inevitable after his studies and his first professional experiences in the interior of São Paulo.

Unlike many fellow pilots, engineers, mechanics and others in the field, the drone specialist had no family influence when choosing to be an aviation professional. But the desire to experience the universe of planes, helicopters and the like, this one comes from a young age. “I’ve always been passionate about aviation,” he says.

Until then, while studying and assembling his plastic model kits – not always with much patience – Lucas had decided whether to go to the APA, to become a military pilot and command fighter jets, or to go to the ITA, to pursue the profession of mechanical engineer. aeronautical. He passed both courses, but engineering screamed louder.

Piloting did not become a profession, but it has been a hobby since 2010, still in college in the interior of São Paulo. If Lucas is not in Curitiba over the weekend, you can count on him doing some ‘bands’ across the sky in the vicinity of the capital of Paraná, aboard a glider, which is an aircraft without an engine.

He usually attends the Aeroclube de Balsa Nova, in the metropolitan area. But Lucas could be much further away, depending on enthusiasm. His longest glider flight was over a distance of 300 kilometers. Still well below the Brazilian record, which is over 1000 kilometers, but still a great challenge. 

Like any other sport, gliding allows for moments of recreation and competition. Lucas still hasn’t participated in any championship in the category, but it’s not something he rules out. He often practices hang gliding and challenges his skills.

In this modality, when taking off, the pilot needs to go after the places where the strongest air currents are. “It’s a big challenge to find the thermals. That’s a regional, close flight. In competition flying, you usually have objectives. He needs to go to such and such a city and come back and the pilot needs to try to reach the points in the most efficient way possible”, he describes.

There is still, as Lucas says, the competition for average speed. “It’s like a race, but instead of dropping everyone together, it’s analyzed later by the GPS and whoever has the best average speed wins.”

In addition to flying at the Aeroclube de Balsa Nova, Lucas is also one of their volunteer glider flight instructors. The sport only has around 200 riders in the country.

Challenge after challenge, and the biggest of all…

Lucas Fontoura faced many challenges ahead of him to get where he got in his career, and today he is experiencing one of the biggest challenges ever proposed, now in his personal life. In February of this year, he fulfilled his dream of marrying his fiancée, Thalia. Reality, however, soon set in and the newly married engineer was widowed a few days later.

Faced with the loss, a support network formed around him and is what allows Lucas to find the strength to move on. In addition to all the support he receives from relatives and friends, Lucas is very grateful to a new family that was formed three years ago and that has been essential in recent weeks in this fight: the team of collaborators at Helisul.

He is grateful for all the affection he has received from each colleague, from the closest to the most distant, due to the different routines in the work environment. 

“Helisul is a family, it really acts like a family. I stayed away from work completely for the first few days and came back at a gradual pace. And it couldn’t have been better received by all people. I can’t imagine a better welcome. […] Even though I was not so well known in the company, people were very supportive.”

Lucas had all the necessary flexibility to return little by little to the routine of activities at Helisul and foresees an intense year in relation to the tasks that lie ahead. This year already promised to be quite a challenge and now I am very focused on work.”