LCI orders up to 40 Chaparral VTOLs from Elroy Air


Operating lessor LCI is broadening its commitment to AAM with an order for up to 40 Chaparral VTOL aircraft from Elroy Air.

The order for the autonomous cargo aircraft complements LCI’s order last April for 50 piloted Alia 250s, with an option for up to 125 aircraft, from eVTOL manufacturer Beta Technologies.

Jaspal Jandu, CEO, LCI told Helicopter Investor: “LCI strongly believes these emerging technologies are complementary to our existing commercial fixed-wing and multi-mission helicopter investments. As many of these new designs move towards commercial operation, we will support innovation in this industry and be able to offer leasing and financing options to customers.”

Under the terms of the deposit-backed agreement, LCI will initially acquire 20 aircraft with an option for a total of up to 40 units.

The Chaparral autonomous VTOL cargo delivery system is designed for aerial transport of up to 500lbs (225kgs) of goods over a range of 300 nautical miles. The aircraft is powered by a turbine-based hybrid-electric powertrain with distributed electrical propulsion and is equipped with aerodynamic modular cargo pods. Elroy Air is developing an autonomous VTOL cargo delivery system using pods which can be pre-loaded to reduce downtime.

Under development at Elroy Air’s facility in South San Francisco, California, the Chaparral (pictured above) is designed to deliver efficient and cost-effective aerial cargo transport for commercial logistics, disaster relief, fire-fighting and humanitarian operations. Its autonomous operation means the aircraft can undertake missions without risk to pilots or the need for airport infrastructure, according to the company.

“This commitment for the pioneering Chaparral system will enable us to efficiently support mission critical, remote logistical work and socially responsible humanitarian efforts around the world,” said Jandu.

The CEO explained how LCI’s latest order will complement its existing partnership with Beta Technologies. “Both Beta and Elroy Air are developing products for mission-critical operations, each having a slightly different approach to the market. While the Beta Alia is a piloted, all-electric aircraft capable of both vertical and conventional take-off, the Chaparral will initially have turbine-based hybrid-electric powertrain capable of operating with current fuels including SAF [sustainable aviation fuel].” That means the two aircraft serve different markets, with the Chaparral capable of operating in more remote regions without the support of intensive infrastructure.

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