Bristow Group Inc. has signed a Letter of Intent with Elroy Air to pre-order 100 Chaparral hybrid-electric cargo VTOL aircraft.
The Chaparral will be the first of its kind vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft dedicated to cargo movement to be introduced into Bristow’s aircraft fleet. Bristow plans to use the Chaparral to serve logistics, healthcare, and energy applications. Additionally, the Chaparral provides a solution to challenges helicopter operators are facing across the world, including reducing emissions by introducing hybrid-electric powertrain and helping offset the pilot shortage by introducing autonomous aircraft for cargo operations.
“Leveraging our expertise as both a helicopter and Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operator, we plan to use the Elroy Air Chaparral aircraft to fill an increasing demand for the movement of time-sensitive cargo for logistics, health care and energy applications,” said Bristow Executive Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer Dave Stepanek. “Bristow has 70+ years of experience moving people and cargo. We expect to leverage that experience to usher in a new era of vertical lift operations and meet the express shipping cargo needs in cities and regions without relying on existing or new airport infrastructure.”
The first production version of the Chaparral will carry 300–500 pounds (136 to 226kg) of cargo over a 300-mile (482 km) range with its hybrid-electric powertrain and simple, redundant vertical and forward-flight propulsors. Goods are loaded into an underslung pod that latches to the fuselage and can autonomously be picked up and dropped off in a 50-foot landing square.
The Chaparral is the flying part of an integrated, high-throughput autonomous aerial logistics system. The vehicle can land, deposit cargo, pick up another load, and take-off again, all in just a few minutes and without operator interaction. Although operated autonomously, the Chaparral can also be remotely piloted to comply with civil aviation authorities and airspace integration policy.
“The response and excitement around the Chaparral and problems it can address have been amazing over these last few months since we unveiled the aircraft. The Chaparral was built for the challenges we’re facing today. Demand for rapid logistics is outpacing today’s infrastructure,” said Elroy Air’s VP of Business Development and Strategy, Kofi Asante. “The Chaparral creates a ‘fast-lane’ for middle-mile logistics to an unprecedented range of locations that can serve remote, rural areas and can fly over rough terrain. We’re proud to work with the global leader in vertical flight solutions to create the future of express logistics.”
To date, Elroy Air has secured agreements to supply 900 aircraft to commercial, defence and humanitarian customers. The LOI is expected to be replaced with a separate purchase agreement.
The Chaparral features distributed electric propulsion, with eight vertical lift rotors, four forward propellers for cruise flight, a high-wing airframe configuration, as well as automated ground autonomy and cargo-handling systems. Its airframe is fabricated using carbon composite materials.