Spanish carrier Volotea is to co-operate in the development of a hybrid electric aircraft for regional transport, a project which will involve newly-established specialist Dante Aeronautical.

Volotea says it will assist with refining the concept by providing market and technical data.

Dante Aeronautical, originally founded in Madrid, says Volotea will help to "define the specifications" of a future commuter aircraft.

It is already working on a 19-seat regional aircraft, designated the DAX-19, which will have a range of 400nm.

But Dante indicates that its design could ultimately accommodate 35 passengers, with thrust generated by batteries for energy storage and an internal combustion "turbo generator" to extend range.

While the company ideally wants to develop an all-electric aircraft, it says a hybrid design is "realistic" for achieving reduced emissions in the near term.

The company is working with engineering organisations including Altran and universities in Sydney and Adelaide to validate the concept in order to support an eventual flight test.

Dante says a "scaled prototype" will be tested before "full industrialisation and future commercialisation", and that the hybrid aircraft being developed with Volotea's assistance will be a "commercial reality" by the middle of the next decade.

Use of highly-efficient aircraft will enable links to "underserved" tourism destinations, says Volotea, or connections between small and medium-sized communities which would otherwise prove unprofitable with conventional types.

"Volotea engineers and commercial specialists have been appointed and made available to validate this market opportunity and provide technical support as well," says the carrier's chief executive Carlos Munoz.

Dante co-founder Miguel Madinabeitia says the hybrid design will open a "new market for door-to-door regional air transport" with competitive costs structures.

"If we want to make aviation more sustainable, we need to find the sweet spot between ambitious emissions reduction targets and realistic economic propositions," he adds. "A full electric aircraft is a nice long term goal, but it will have very little impact in the near term if it is just a niche product for wealthy individuals."