SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — Elroy Air, the company developing the first end-to-end autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial cargo system, has signed an agreement with LCI, a leading aviation company and a subsidiary of Libra Group for commitments to purchase up to 40 of the company’s Chaparral vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, with deposits paid for the first 20 vehicles. The company has now secured more than $2 billion in aircraft purchase demand for upwards of 900 Chaparral systems in the commercial, defence and humanitarian sectors.
“We’re experiencing an enthusiastic response to the Chaparral and its capabilities to serve as a key part of a safe, efficient, and capable fleet of aircraft to respond in emergency situations, keep pilots out of harm’s way, and enable rapid logistics in a new and sustainable way,” said David Merrill, CEO and Co-Founder of Elroy Air. “Through our agreement with LCI, the Chaparral will be available for financing — enabling much broader access to the aircraft. We are proud that the Chaparral will now be part of LCI’s aviation fleet and look forward to providing aerial cargo transport globally.”
The Chaparral is the first end-to-end autonomous VTOL cargo delivery system. It is designed for aerial transport of up 500 lbs (225 kgs) of goods over a 300 nautical mile range, enabled initially by a turbine-based hybrid-electric powertrain with distributed electric propulsion, and specially designed aerodynamic modular cargo pods.
“Applications for the Chaparral include aerial cargo transport for disaster relief, firefighting and humanitarian operations without risk to pilots or the need for airport infrastructure,” said VP of Business Development & Strategy Kofi Asante. “What’s particularly exciting about our agreement with LCI is that it unlocks financing for the Chaparral for humanitarian use and enables us to share the Chaparral’s capabilities worldwide.”
Jaspal Jandu, CEO of LCI, says: “This commitment for the pioneering Chaparral system will enable us to efficiently support mission critical, remote logistical work and socially responsible humanitarian work around the world. It will do so in complement with the wide-ranging capabilities of our existing aviation fleet.
“We have been impressed with Elroy Air’s vision and approach and look forward to working closely with the team on a wide range of market opportunities. This forms part of our wider advanced air mobility strategy and will strengthen LCI’s position as a leading provider of leasing, financing and investing solutions for this new and exciting market.”
Company Moves to Byron Airport for Flight Testing
Elroy Air has moved its flight testing facility to Byron Airport in Byron, California. The company is using the new facility to support full-scale ground and flight testing. The company will initially be conducting tie-down testing to validate the software and hardware of its Chaparral C1 vehicles to validate safety of flight through a series of ground tests. Elroy Air has moved their Ground Control Station (GCS) to the airport, a custom-built mobile enclosure with engineering stations, weather monitoring, viewport windows, a dedicated network infrastructure, a datalink control and monitoring radio system and a rooftop observation deck. The GCS contains its own uninterruptible power supply (UPS), aircraft monitoring computers, and a climate control system. The GCS will be used to support both ground and flight tests.
In partnership with Urban Air Mobility — a joint-venture between MS Commercial, Inc. and Nearon Enterprises — Elroy Air has leased and prepared a new 7,000 square foot hangar at Byron airport for its ground and flight test campaigns, to ensure smooth and efficient progress into the next flight test campaign and beyond. The Byron hangar is equipped with a large storage and work area, the first production Chaparral vehicle (C1–1), and thanks to Chaparral’s wing stowing mechanism multiple C1 systems can be housed and maintained in the hangar. Elroy Air worked with the Contra Costa county airport team to establish a dedicated test area where a helipad has been installed for dedicated flight testing purposes.
About the Chaparral
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 for missions anywhere in the world.
Elroy Air has additionally 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 vehicle can retrieve another pre-packed pod and transport the pod to its next destination, creating a bi-directional conveyor belt through the sky.