Cargo drone developer Elroy Air says it has secured the purchase at least 20 of its Chaparral autonomous planes from aircraft and helicopter leasing company LCI, raising the total value of its order book to over $2 billion, according to the company.
LCI announced it had placed a firm order for 20 of Elroy’s vertical takeoff and landing cargo drones, and has taken an option for up to 20 more Chaparral craft. The end-to-end, autonomous logistics and delivery UAVs can carry a maximum 500 lb. of freight up to 300 miles. The craft is central to Elroy Air’s integrated, high-throughput autonomous aerial logistics system, and can takeoff, land, on-load, and off-load payloads quickly with no operator interaction.
LCI will lease its Chaparral drones to clients for commercial logistics, disaster relief, firefighting, and other missions, as well as use for cargo transport by humanitarian organizations similar to Ayr, which last year ordered up to 100 Chaparral craft of its own for aid deliveries.
Read: Elroy Air unveils autonomous, heavy payload VTOL cargo drone
The lift-and-cruise plane operates using a turbine-based hybrid-electric powertrain for long-range mission capabilities. It can fit into a 40-foot shipping container to be rapidly transported anywhere in the world for immediate deployment.
Elroy says the LCI Chaparral order brings the total it for its automated cargo drone to over 900 craft, or more than $2 billion.
“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, protect pilots, and enable rapid logistics in a new and sustainable way,” said Elroy Air CEO David Merrill, who says the company is making moves to give more potential clients flexibility in buying the craft. “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.”
Read more: Elroy Air, Ayr Logistics ink drone humanitarian aid delivery deal
Chaparral UAVs transport cargo using lightweight, aerodynamic pods that – once packed with payload – the plane picks up from the tarmac by itself. Delivery is also autonomous, with the containers lowered to the ground after landing – a self-operating system Elroy calls a “bidirectional conveyor belt through the sky.”
“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,” said LCI CEO Jaspal Jandu. “It will do so in complement with the wide-ranging capabilities of our existing aviation fleet.”