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Providing humanitarian services to countries around the world is the next major goal for San Francisco-based Elroy Air, the developers of the Chaparral hybrid-electric autonomous cargo drone.
The company announced today that it is partnering with AYR Logistics, an aircraft owner and operator that provides logistics support to the humanitarian community, including the United Nations, World Food Programme, UNICEF, non-governmental organizations, and governments. Company representatives are at the Dubai Airshow this week to share details of their plan to develop an autonomous aerial cargo delivery service for humanitarian aid.
Kofi Asante, vice-president of strategy and business development at Elroy Air, told eVTOL.com that Elroy is targeting the humanitarian market, which “aligns directly with our core mission to expand express logistics to places that are hard to reach.”
“More than a billion people are disconnected from reliable roadways,” he added. “That means if you were to use a truck, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish these types missions. We’re pretty excited about this idea of being able to provide essential goods without necessarily needing to rely on infrastructure.”
The partnership will see AYR Logistics commit to purchase up to 100 Chaparral aircraft over the next five to seven years to expand its humanitarian logistics business.
Serge Sergeef, CEO of AYR Logistics, said his company is particular about the cargo drone used in its humanitarian missions since its aircraft need to operate in challenging and remote conditions, often without basic airport infrastructure or ground support.
“We need highly efficient and cost-effective aircraft with excellent dispatch reliability that provide 24-hour, all weather operations, and perform vertical take-off and landing with pinpoint accuracy,” Sergeef said in a press release.
The Chaparral hybrid-electric VTOL is a lift-plus-cruise aircraft with separate vertical and cruise flight lift fans and a hybrid-electric powertrain for long-range mission capabilities, targeting a range of 300 miles (480 kilometers) and a payload of 300 to 500 pounds (135 to 225 kilograms).
Elroy Air claims to have developed lightweight, aerodynamic modular cargo pods that can be pre-loaded by ground personnel and picked up by the aircraft before take-off. The Chaparral delivers its payload by lowering its cargo pod to the ground and releasing it after the system has landed. The aircraft can then retrieve another pre-packed pod to transport to its next destination, creating a bidirectional conveyor belt through the sky.
Asante said its autonomous controls will also allow users to increase the number of trips, providing an extra layer of flexibility to deliver cargo around the clock without having to put a person at risk in a potentially hostile environment.