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Elroy Air achieves first flight of Chaparral C1 hybrid eVTOL aircraft

By Jen Nevans | November 16, 2023

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 28 seconds.

Hybrid-electric VTOL developer Elroy Air has completed what the company claims is the first turbogenerator hybrid-electric VTOL flight.

Elroy Air achieved its milestone turbogenerator hybrid-electric VTOL flight on Nov. 12 in Byron, California. Elroy Air Photo

The milestone test flight was carried out on Nov. 12 at the company’s facility in Byron, California, using the Chaparral C1 — an autonomous lift-plus-cruise cargo delivery aircraft with a distributed electric propulsion system and turbogenerator-battery architecture.

Elroy CEO Dave Merrill called the flight an “exhilarating day for our team and the industry as a whole.” The team witnessed the aircraft utilizing its turbogenerator system and high-power batteries to take off vertically, fly for 57 seconds, and successfully land.

“This marks a major moment for the industry as hybrid-electric aircraft enable the dual benefits of runway-independent redundant propulsion, and long-range flight well in excess of battery power alone,” Merrill said. “Our accomplishment puts Elroy Air one step closer to delivering a transformative logistics capability to our customers and partners.”

Elroy intends for its aircraft to be used for commercial air shipping, humanitarian aid, and military logistics, already securing partnerships with Mesa Airlines, AYR Logistics, LCI, Bristow, and FedEx. Elroy also holds three active contracts with the U.S. Air Force, and said its vehicle backlog exceeds $3 billion in future revenues.

“Without the support of our investors, commercial partners, and the department of the Air Force’s visionary Agility Prime effort, we would not be this much closer to making our vision a reality,” said Elroy Air co-founder and chief product officer Clint Cope. 

Utilizing its turbogenerator system and high-power batteries, the Chaparral C1 took off vertically, flew for 57 seconds, and successfully landed. Elroy Air Photo

The company believes hybrid-electric technology is a critical component that will help advance the aviation industry. Due to the energy density limitations of today’s battery cells, battery-powered eVTOL aircraft are “range-constrained,” the company said. They also require battery-charging infrastructure.

“The combination of [distributed electric propulsion] and turbine-based electrical power generation yields [the] best of both worlds,” the company said.

Elroy’s Chaparral C1 is designed to autonomously pick up and drop off cargo in an aerodynamic modular pod that latches to the aircraft’s fuselage, creating a bi-directional conveyor belt in the sky. The first production version of the Chaparral is targeted to carry 300 to 500 pounds (135 to 225 kilograms) of cargo over a 300-mile (480-kilometer) range.

Elroy’s vice president of engineering Zach Lovering said the initial flight of the C1 will be followed by ongoing envelope expansion with the U.S. Air Force, with plans to demonstrate different modes of airborne operations.

“These modes include expanded hover, system identification, transition, and cruise flight,” Lovering said.

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