Elroy Air Successfully Completes First Test Flight of Large Unmanned VTOL Cargo Aircraft
San Francisco, California, August 28, 2019 — Elroy Air, an autonomy and logistics company developing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial cargo systems, announced the successful completion of its first full-scale system flight test, the 1215 lb prototype reaching a height of 10 feet and hovering for 64 seconds before descending and landing safely. The test was completed at 9:14AM PST on August 14th, 2019 at McMillan Airfield at Camp Roberts, CA in partnership with the Naval Postgraduate School. The aircraft was remotely piloted by the company’s lead test pilot.
“Today is an important step toward the future of logistics,” said David Merrill, CEO of Elroy Air. “Since the earliest days of powered flight people have wanted to use the skies for convenient, rapid cargo transport to anywhere. The airport-dependence of traditional manned air cargo options shows that air cargo still has great opportunity to evolve! Autonomous VTOL cargo systems will make the dream of ultra-responsive logistics possible, because they decouple air cargo from airports. These large cargo systems are about to become mainstream, and the Elroy Air team is leading the industry with our development of the Chaparral aerial cargo system.”
Elroy Air is part of a recent surge of companies developing VTOL aerial mobility systems. Unique to the Elroy Air system is its hybrid-electric powertrain enabling long range deliveries, and its cargo-handling automation for rapid and unattended loading and unloading. Very few teams worldwide have achieved successful flight of a VTOL system of this scale.
“The development is a response to a global pilot shortage and growing demand for more flexible and rapid logistics across all traffic and terrain scenarios on the ground. Autonomous air cargo transportation has the ability to improve the quality of life globally by increasing access to time-sensitive critical supplies,” said Kofi Asante, Head of Strategy and Business Development. “Our systems have been requested to serve e-commerce parcel, pharmaceutical, humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions globally. As the growing demand for rapid logistics drives shippers to adapt, we plan to play a key part in enabling this new wave of autonomy-enabled express transportation.”
“Developing a robust VTOL system at this scale of payload is a challenging feat that requires the right team and resources,” said Clint Cope, VP of Engineering at Elroy Air. “The set of flight-critical systems that all have to be working perfectly together for robust, repeatable performance is non-trivial. The Elroy Air team is a squad of experts who know exactly what it takes in their respective domains to build a world-class aerial cargo system. This flight is a huge milestone, because it validates what our team can do. We’ll celebrate this accomplishment with our investors and customers, then continue our work toward deployed systems.”
Following the successful first fight, the team will focus on additional testing, including autonomy, transitions and forward flight.
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About the Chaparral
The Chaparral is the VTOL aerial cargo system in development by Elroy Air at its headquarters in San Francisco, CA. It is a transitioning lift+cruise VTOL aircraft with separate vertical and cruise flight lift systems and hybrid-electric powertrain for long-range flight capabilities. The production version of the Chaparral will carry 300lbs of cargo over a 300-mi range.
The Elroy Air team has designed the system for high-throughput aerial cargo transport needing minimal pilots and operators. The company has developed lightweight, aerodynamic modular cargo pods that can be pre-loaded by ground staff and picked up by the aircraft before takeoff. At the delivery location, the pod is lowered to the ground and released after the system has landed. Upon depositing a cargo pod, the system can retrieve another pre-packed outbound pod and fly to its next destination, creating a bi-direction conveyor belt through the sky. The system is designed for autonomous flight operations, but can be partially remotely-piloted to comply with civil aviation authorities and airspace integration policy.
Elroy Air is an autonomy and logistics company developing industry-first aerial transport systems and software to deliver cargo rapidly and flexibly by air. Building on the powertrain and perception technology currently enabling the hybrid-electric/autonomous vehicle revolution, its vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aerial logistics systems can operate outside of airport infrastructure and carry 300+lbs of cargo over 300 miles. These systems evolve the possible in commercial air cargo, to expand delivery locations and reduce timeframes, provide immediate aid and relief in disaster and firefighting situations, and rapid autonomous resupply for troops in the field.
Elroy Air was founded in 2016 by leaders in unmanned aerial systems (UAS), product development and software. The company is financed by some of the top venture firms in the Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, including Catapult Ventures, Levitate Capital, Lemnos, Precursor Ventures, Haystack, Shasta Ventures, TenOneTen, Amplify Partners, Homebrew, Hemisphere Ventures, Diamondstream Partners, E14 Fund, City Light, Side X Side Management, Venture Investment Associates, early Uber employees and pioneering angel investors.
The company has attracted a diverse and talented team with industry experience hailing from Uber, Northrop Grumman, Scaled Composites, Skyryse, AeroVironment and Airbus as well as academic backgrounds from Embry-Riddle, Rice, MIT, Georgia Tech and Stanford.
Originally published at https://medium.com on August 28, 2019.