Elroy Air, a leading aviation company and a subsidiary of Libra Group, has entered into an agreement with LCI for commitments to buy up to 40 of the company’s Chaparral vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, with deposits already paid for the first 20 aircraft. Elroy Air is developing the first end-to-end autonomous VTOL aerial cargo system. In the commercial, defense, and humanitarian sectors, the business has now secured more than $2 billion in aircraft purchase demand for upwards of 900 Chaparral systems.
“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 first end-to-end autonomous VTOL cargo delivery system is called The Chaparral. It is intended for aerial delivery of up to 500 lbs (225 kg) of freight across a range of 300 nautical miles. Specially designed aerodynamic modular cargo pods and a turbine-based hybrid-electric motor make this possible at first.
“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.”
The flight testing facility for Elroy Air has relocated to Byron Airport in Byron, California. The new facility is being utilised by the corporation to facilitate extensive ground and flight testing. Through a series of ground tests, the company will initially conduct tie-down testing to check the software and hardware of its Chaparral C1 vehicles to validate flight safety. The Ground Control Station (GCS) for Elroy Air has been relocated to the airport. The GCS is a specially constructed mobile enclosure with engineering stations, weather monitoring equipment, viewport windows, a dedicated network infrastructure, a datalink control and monitoring radio system, and a rooftop observation deck. A climate control system, aircraft monitoring computers, and an independent uninterruptible power supply (UPS) are all included in the GCS. Tests on the ground and in the air will both be supported by the GCS.
To ensure smooth and effective progress into the upcoming flight test campaign and beyond, Elroy Air has leased and prepared a new 7,000 square foot hangar at Byron airport for its ground and flight test campaigns in collaboration with Urban Air Mobility, a joint-venture between MS Commercial, Inc. and Nearon Enterprises. The Byron hangar features a sizable work and storage room, the first production Chaparral vehicle (C1-1), and numerous C1 systems may be stored and maintained there thanks to Chaparral’s wing stowing mechanism. In order to provide a specialised test area with a helipad for dedicated flight testing, Elroy Air collaborated with the Contra Costa County Airport team.
With a complete carbon composite structure and a turbine-based hybrid-electric powerplant for long-range mission capabilities, the Chaparral is a transitioning “lift + cruise” VTOL aircraft. Additionally, it was made to fit in a 40-foot shipping container or a C-130 cargo plane, making it possible to send it swiftly and deploy it for missions anywhere in the world.
Additionally, Elroy Air has created aerodynamic, lightweight modular cargo pods that may be loaded in advance by ground personnel and picked up by the aircraft prior to takeoff. The cargo pod is lowered to the ground at the delivery point and then let go after the system has touched down. The Chaparral vehicle may pick up a second pre-packaged pod and deliver it to its next location, forming a two-way conveyor belt across the air.