Autonomous heavy cargo drone manufacturer Elroy Air has introduced the full pre-production version of its Chaparral vertical takeoff and landing craft (VTOL), for which the company says it has already racked up 500 orders.
San Francisco-based Elroy introduced its high-capacity, long-distance Chaparral cargo plane on Thursday, promising the end-to-end autonomous VTOL drone will revolutionize where and how express cargo activities operate around the globe. The craft can carry between 300 and 500 lbs. of payload, and use its hybrid power source to fly up to 300 miles. Elroy says the specially designed onboard handling system permits transported packages to be loaded onto and off of the aircraft automatically, requiring no human intervention at any stage of its operation.
Given that autonomous functioning, heavier capacity, longer flight time than most cargo drones, and VTOL operation, Elroy says the Chaparral will transform how express freight is managed in developed markets, and open the activity to many others currently shut out.
“The Chaparral is an important part of the future of express logistics,” said Elroy Air CEO David Merrill. “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.”
The company says it has secured purchase agreements for more than 500 of its VTOL cargo drones from commercial, defense, and humanitarian customers, amounting to more than $1 billion in value. Those clients include Mesa Airlines, a regional US carrier operating large fleets on behalf of partners that include American and United Airlines. Freight giant DHL has also expressed its intent to order 150 Chaparral aircraft to facilitate express parcel and healthcare activity.
“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with strong operators who have been servicing these three core customer markets for decades,” said Elroy vice president of business development and strategy. “The partnerships will focus on missions that aim to improve quality of life for communities by expanding express logistics.”
Elroy also has an established relationship with the US Air Force, which in the last quarter of 2021 alone awarded the company an additional $1.7 million Tactical Funding Increase for work on its VTOL development program.
Unveiling of the final version of its flagship heavy-haul cargo drone brings Elroy to that much nearer to production launch. Appeal of the VTOL craft is not only it spanning the gap between smaller UAV and traditional aircraft usually use for freight. It’s also Chaparral’s ability to access spots normal craft can’t – and be loaded into a 40’ shipping container or C1 plane to be transported closer to those final destinations. That flexibility is one reason why humanitarian logistics and support company Ayr tapped Elroy as its supplier in a deal last November.
“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, 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.”
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