San Francisco-based startup Elroy Air is attempting to bring to market an unmanned aircraft that can pick up and carry a cargo load of up to 500 pounds.
The company has received $4.6 million in seed funding, contributing to a total of $9.2 million, to develop the Chaparral aircraft. The Chaparral’s cargo bay measures eight feet by 21 inches by 16 inches, and would be able to travel up to 300 miles.
“We want it to be like the Ford F-150 of the sky,” said Elroy Air CEO David Merrill. “We want to make it a trusty flexible platform that can be put to a lot of use cases.”
These use cases include truck replacement services on low-demand rural routes, support for subcontracted air carriers used by the likes of FedEx and UPS, and disaster relief for governments and NGOs.
Credit: Agustinus Nathaniel
The Chaparral uses six electric rotors for vertical take-off and landing, and wings and a pusher propeller—powered by a gasoline engine—while in the air. It has a battery that recharges during flight.
While it’s gas-powered rather than electric, it will burn only 3-5 gallons of fuel an hour, as opposed to the 50 gallons consumed by the small air freight carrier Cessna Caravan.
The Cessna Caravan can carry up to 4,000 pounds but, according to Merrill, many of its flights aren’t fully loaded and Elroy’s prospective customers are looking to transport much less.