Elroy Air announced the successful completion of its first full-scale system flight test yesterday. The first flight of the 1215 lb prototype reached a height of 10 feet and hovered for 64 seconds before descending and landing safely.

According to Elroy’s Medium Article on the first flight, 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, and 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.”

The Elroy Air Chaparral and Cargo Pod at McMillan Airfield, Camp Roberts, CA.

Elroy Air’s large cargo eVTOL system uses a hybrid-electric powertrain that enables long range deliveries. Additionally, the company emphasizes its cargo-handling automation for quick and safe loading and unloading of packages.

“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.

“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.”

Elroy Air Cargo Pod, with Chaparral in the background.

Why it’s important: Elroy Air’s first flight of Chaparral is a great achievement for the company on its path towards certification of large-scale autonomous hybrid eVTOL’s for logistics applications. As is the approach of numbers of other eVTOL OEM’s, Elroy’s early adoption of hybrid electric powertrain solutions will most likely aid in bridging the gap between the battery technology of today and the targets for energy storage capabilities in the next 10-15 years.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz

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