San Francisco, California, USA
“The Chaparral opens an exciting new chapter for high-performing logistics,” said Elroy Air CEO David Merrill.
“We have designed the Chaparral from the ground up to be the ultimate autonomous VTOL [vertical takeoff and landing] cargo system.”
“Optimizing for freight throughput informs every detail of the aircraft, particularly our patented automated cargo loading/unloading systems, but also human factors, powertrain layout of internal components and even landing gear details.”
For its commitment toward a greener and more sustainable method of transportation, the Elroy Air Chaparral won a recent 2021Green Good Design Award from The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum.
Founded in 2016 by Merrill, Elroy Air has worked to create system applications for air cargo delivery for commercial, humanitarian, and military purposes.
“We aim to be a catalyst. Our goal is to create a new wave of transportation that does not rely on infrastructure,” said Kofi Asante, Head of strategy and business development for Elroy Air.
According to Asante, there are more than 1 billion people who live outside the reach of reliable roadways, and governments, humanitarian agencies and commercial operations around the world are looking for ways to deliver medical supplies, parcels, equipment parts and perishables.
Designed by Clint Cope, VP Engineering, Elroy Air, the Chaparral has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities that allow every flat surface to become a potential delivery location.
The Chaparral is a hopeful, purposeful product, and a daunting endeavor. In utility and capability, it is more “box truck” than it is “Ferrari”.
In service, it is more “aid worker” or “delivery personnel” than it is “war-fighter”. The design team felt the aesthetics should reflect these qualities while actively avoiding associations to the most recognizable unmanned flying vehicles which are war machines.
The lines of the Chaparral were inspired by sedans and pickup trucks from the 1970’s (alongside more future-facing reference).
The ‘face’ was sculpted to maintain a friendly neutrality.
All of this was iteratively sculpted then verified via computational flow dynamics. The livery was developed to have a strong A/B read – when above, the bold orange is visible, when parked it remains mostly white and of a piece with general aviation.
The appearance of the Chaparral embodies the aspirations of this novel, paradigm shifting
technology, while grounding it in the contexts from which it operates.
When the Chaparral lands at the destination, the system delivers the cargo and picks up another container for the return flight.
The cargo containers detach from the aircraft and once it is packed with goods, it is set aside and prepared for pickup.
The Chaparral hovers over the container, picks up the cargo, then takes off vertically.
Once the drone is in flight, it transitions to a wing-based mode and recharges its battery while enroute to its destination.
The urgent global need for logistics demands a new transport solution that leapfrogs traditional infrastructure.
The Chaparral is able to autonomously deposit and retrieve cargo without human contact and without roads or airports.
This air vehicle represents the adaptation and maturation of powertrain from hybrid automobiles, sensing from self-driving vehicles, autopilots from consumer multi-rotor control systems, and manufacturing techniques adapted from rapid prototyping and aerospace.
Autonomous air cargo transportation has the ability to improve the quality of life globally by increasing access to time-sensitive critical supplies.
Annually, over 600 million people are negatively impacted by natural disasters.
This year, the impact hits all of us.
We have the ability to decrease the number of lives lost by providing access to urgent supplies at a moment’s notice to any flat patch of land on the globe.
Project: Elroy Air Chaparral
Designers: Clint Cope, VP Engineering, Elroy Air
Manufacturer: Elroy Air