Elroy Air unveils Chaparral autonomous, hybrid-electric VTOL cargo aircraft; agreements for >500 units
Elroy Air, a company developing the first end-to-end autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial cargo system, unveiled its pre-production Chaparral aircraft. The Chaparral can autonomously pick up 300-500 lbs of cargo and deliver it by air up to 300 miles, a capability that pushes beyond the limited payload capabilities of delivery drones and the airport infrastructure required of piloted air cargo options available today.
The company has secured agreements for more than 500 aircraft from commercial, defense and humanitarian customers amounting to more than $1 billion in aircraft demand.
Mesa Airlines, an American regional airline operating large fleets on behalf of partners including American Airlines, United Airlines, and DHL, has intent to order 150 aircraft to serve the express parcel and healthcare sectors.
Elroy Air was awarded a Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) Award from the United States Air Force in Q4 2021 amounting to an additional $1.7M in contract value alongside its existing Phase 3 SBIR contract. The funding will be used to further develop deployment details and CONOPS in collaboration with its Air Force and Agility Prime partners. It reflects sustained enthusiasm by the Air Force and AFWERX to help accelerate the Chaparral to readiness for usage by the organization.
AYR Logistics, an aircraft owner and operator with more than 20 years of experience providing logistics support to the humanitarian community in more than 45 countries, including the United Nations, World Food Programme (WFP), Governments and NGOs, signed an agreement with Elroy Air to purchase up to 100 Chaparral aircraft to augment and expand its humanitarian logistics business.
What aid agencies spend on transportation is money that they’re not spending on food, medicine and other emergency supplies, but transportation is obviously very important to get the aid to where it needs to be. Moving to unmanned, aerial cargo vehicles will make a huge difference to our cost structure and the risk profile of our operations. We fly in difficult terrain and difficult conditions. We don’t always have the luxury of a runway or even personnel at some locations. There simply hasn’t been a UAV with the type of capabilities that the Chaparral has in the commercial markets. The Chaparral is a quantum leap in terms of load carrying and range as well as being able to operate with minimal infrastructure.—Stephen Lyons, Chief Development Officer of AYR Logistics
An early prototype of the Chaparral was flown in 2019, demonstrating several key systems of the aircraft design. The unveiled Chaparral system features eight vertical lift fans, four distributed electric propulsors for forward flight, a high-wing airframe configuration, as well as improved ground autonomy and cargo-handling systems.
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. It was also designed to fit in a 40' shipping container or C-130 cargo aircraft, enabling it to be quickly shipped and deployed anywhere in the world.
Elroy Air has developed lightweight, aerodynamic modular cargo pods that can be pre-loaded by ground personnel and picked up by the aircraft before takeoff. At the delivery location, the cargo pod is lowered to the ground and released after the system has landed. The Chaparral system can retrieve another pre-packed pod and transport the pod to its next destination, creating a bi-directional conveyor belt through the sky.