San Francisco-based Elroy Air says it expects to deliver 100 autonomous cargo drones to Bristow, a leading provider of helicopter transportation to oil and gas customers, search and rescue (SAR), and aircraft support solutions to government and civil organizations.
This major client win for Elroy Air comes weeks after FedEx announced it would use the startup’s drones to explore autonomous solutions within middle-mile delivery operations. The drone maker, meanwhile, has secured agreements to supply 900 aircraft to commercial, defense, and humanitarian customers to date.
Elroy Air says its Chaparral vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) cargo drone would be the first of its kind to be introduced into Bristow’s aircraft fleet. Currently, Bristow is using drones to expand its SAR services in the United Kingdom.
Bristow’s plans for the Chaparral cargo drone include logistics, healthcare, and energy applications. Additionally, Elroy Air’s hybrid uncrewed aircraft would offer a solution to the challenges helicopter operators across the world are facing, such as reducing emissions and helping to offset the pilot shortage.
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As Dave Stepanek, Bristow executive VP and chief transformation officer, points out:
Leveraging our expertise as both a helicopter and UAS operator, we plan to use the Elroy Air Chaparral aircraft to fill an increasing demand for the movement of time-sensitive cargo for logistics, healthcare, and energy applications. Bristow has 70+ years of experience moving people and cargo. We expect to leverage that experience to usher in a new era of vertical lift operations and meet the express shipping cargo needs in cities and regions without relying on existing or new airport infrastructure.
The first production version of the Chaparral is designed to carry 300–500 pounds (136 to 226 kg) of cargo over a 300-mile (482 km) range with its hybrid-electric powertrain. Goods are loaded into an underslung pod that latches to the fuselage and can autonomously be picked up and dropped off in a 50-foot landing square. Although operations are intended to be autonomous, the Chaparral can also be remotely piloted to comply with civil aviation authorities and airspace integration policy.
Elroy Air’s VP of business development and strategy, Kofi Asante, says:
Demand for rapid logistics is outpacing today’s infrastructure. The Chaparral was built for the challenges we’re facing today. It creates a ‘fast-lane’ for middle-mile logistics to an unprecedented range of locations that can serve remote, rural areas and can fly over rough terrain.
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