Elroy Air, the startup that wants to develop the first end-to-end autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial cargo system, has unveiled its pre-production Chaparral aircraft.
The Chaparral is a transitioning ‘lift + cruise’ VTOL aircraft with a full carbon composite airframe and a turbine-based hybrid-electric powertrain for long-range mission capabilities. The system features eight vertical lift fans, four distributes electric propulsors for forward flight, a high-wing airframe configuration, as well as improved ground autonomy and cargo-handling systems.
The autonomous air cargo system can autonomously pick up 300-500 lbs (136 to 226kg) of cargo and deliver it by air up to 300 miles (482km), a capability that pushes beyond the limited payload capabilities of delivery drones and the airport infrastructure required of piloted air cargo options available today. It is also designed to fit in a 40-foot shipping container or C-130 cargo aircraft, enabling it to be quickly shipped and deployed anywhere in the world.
“The Chaparral is an important part of the future of express logistics. It is built for full end-to-end automation, and it will safely and efficiently make express shipping possible in thousands of new places. It’s a delivery drone that’s faster than ground transport and lower cost than today’s traditional aircraft,” said Elroy Air Co-founder and CEO David Merrill.
The company has secured agreements for more than 500 aircraft from commercial, defense, and humanitarian customers, defense and humanitarian customers, and say these amount to more than 1 billion in aircraft demand.
Elroy Air has received funding from the U.S. Air Force and an order for 100 new Chaparral aircraft from AYR Logistics, a company that works with aid groups like the United Nations and World Food Programme (WFP).
“We have designed an aircraft that behaves like a hybrid between a rough-and-ready helicopter and a battle-hardened bush plane, that can pick up cargo up anywhere with a 50 square foot landing area,” said Clint Cope, Co-founder, and President of Elroy Air. “The Chaparral will be a vital logistics link for people around the world with unreliable roadways and in remote and rural areas that take longer to reach today.”
Elroy Air was awarded a Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) Award from the United States Air Force in Q4 2021, amounting to an additional $1.7 million in contract value as a part of the AFWERX Agility Prime program. The funding will be used to further develop deployment details and CONOPS in collaboration with its Air Force and Agility Prime partners.