Elroy Air is partnering with EmbraerX to develop a cargo-carrying electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft called the Chaparral. The companies said the autonomously operated aircraft, which will have a hybrid-electric propulsion system, will be able to deliver payloads of up to 300 pounds over distances of up to 300 miles.
Announcing the partnership today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Elroy said it intends to complete type aircraft certification in 2022 under the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Special Class 21.17 (b) rules. According to the California-based company, Embraer will be involved in the program in an advisory capacity “in the areas of engineering, business, and certification.”
EmbraerX president and CEO Antonio Campello told AIN that Embraer’s experience in providing aftermarket support once the Chaparral enters service could be very valuable and that it is investing in developing an “ecosystem” to support eVTOL aircraft entering service.
Separately, Campello said EmbraerX will announce further new partnerships in the so-called urban air mobility sector during the first half of this year. The company has been working on plans for a passenger-carrying eVTOL aircraft but has steadfastly declined to say how advanced this program may be.
EmbraerX is one of Uber’s eight manufacturing partners for its planned Uber Air air-taxi service. It is the Florida-based technology innovation subsidiary of Brazil’s Embraer, which has more than 50 years of experience in building business aircraft and airliners. Embraer is in the process of merging with Boeing, which is pursuing its own plans to develop eVTOL aircraft for both passenger- and cargo-carrying applications.
Elroy has not disclosed any details of major suppliers for the program but says that it will produce the Chaparral itself. The aircraft’s propulsion system consists of a forward propeller and vertical flight rotors driven by electric motors, with a turboshaft engine and electrical generator.
“The system features unique and patented cargo-handling systems enabling unattended pickup and drop-off of cargo pods, which will unlock high-throughput logistics with very little down-time compared to today’s air cargo [operations] in which assets are utilized at lower daily levels,” Elroy co-founder and CEO David Merrill told AIN.
Elroy intends the Chaparral to be flown fully autonomously, but there will be an option for it to be remotely piloted. “Operators do not have direct stick-to-surface or fly-by-wire control,” Merrill explained. “Operators will task the system with mission plans [for example, via sequences of waypoints and maneuvers] and can override an active mission plan with a new plan or maneuver. We expect that civil aviation authorities will require a pilot-in-command to at least monitor flights in early years.”