Elroy Air demonstrates autonomous cargo-handling of Chaparral aircraft
Elroy Air has demonstrated the autonomous ground navigation and cargo-handling capabilities of its Chaparral VTOL for the US Air Force.
The demonstration, which formed part of the Golden Phoenix Technology Demonstration Event held at Travis Air Force Base, California, involved a series of autonomous manoeuvres without the use of GPS. Without intervention, the vehicle located and navigated autonomously to a cargo pod inside a hangar from a distance of 20 metres, then used its robotic grasping mechanism to pick the pod up and secure it to the underside of the vehicle. The system then navigated out of the hangar to the takeoff zone.
Karl Purdy, director of Federal Programs at Elroy Air, said: “We are proud to partner with the US Air Force and be here today to demonstrate one small part of the Chaparral’s autonomy, and how it will improve mission efficiency and airman performance when operating in a contested, GPS-denied environment.”
The Chaparral aircraft is built with a full carbon composite airframe and a turbine-based hybrid-electric powertrain. It was designed to fit in a shipping container or C-130 aircraft, enabling it to be quickly shipped and deployed to missions. Made specifically for logistics, Chaparral is capable of locating, navigating to, picking up, and dropping off Elroy Air’s modular cargo pods. The pods are a core element in the Chaparral airborne logistics system — they can be pre-loaded by ground personnel and picked up by the aircraft’s robotic systems before takeoff.
Purdy added: “The Chaparral’s high levels of autonomy enable multi-capable Airmen to accomplish tasks outside of their core AF specialty. Its scalable logistics support to tailorable force packages enables friendly forces to execute from multiple, austere operating locations.”