Elroy flies hybrid-electric VTOL in ‘world first’



Elroy Air’s turbogenerator-hybrid electric VTOL aircraft has completed a maiden flight in a “world first” for the aircraft type.

The aircraft, known as the Chaparral C1, flew on November 12 at Elroy’s test-flight facility in Byron, California. The C1 is an autonomous hVTOL with distributed electric propulsion (DEP) and a turbogenerator-battery architecture. The aircraft used both its turbogenerator and batteries during the flight, where it took off vertically and flew for 57 seconds before landing successfully. 

“This is an exhilarating day for our team and the industry as a whole,” said Elroy Air co-founder and CEO Dave Merrill. “In 2017 we had an unconventional idea to develop an autonomous long-range VTOL aircraft that would fill a major capability gap for middle-mile express shipping, humanitarian logistics, and military resupply. On Sunday our Chaparral C1 became the first turbogenerator-hybrid electric hVTOL aircraft to take flight.”

Merrill added that the flight marks a “major moment” for the industry. Hybrid-electric aircraft represent a critical advancement in the aviation industry, according to Elroy. The combination of DEP and turbine-based electrical power generation yields a best-of-both-worlds option. The turbogenerator-hybrid architecture addresses the limitations of all-electric systems without requiring charging infrastructure.

Elroy’s vehicle backlog — made up of LoIs and MoUs with a growing number of deposit-backed agreements — today exceeds $3b in future revenues. The firm also now holds three active contracts with US Air Force (SBIR Phase II, SBIR Phase III, and TACFI).

Col. Elliott Leigh AFWERX director and chief commercialisation officer for the USAF said: “AFWERX is excited to see the progress in hybrid electric powertrains for transformative vertical lift aircraft. Hybrid flight marks a key technical milestone for the industry to increase VTOL range and payload while validating the investment strategies of both AFWERX Prime and AFVentures TACFI programme.”

Elroy Air VP of Engineering Zach Lovering added: “This groundbreaking initial flight of the C1 will be followed by an ongoing envelope expansion campaign in coordination with the USAF in which we’ll advance the vehicle’s demonstrated flight capabilities through subsequent modes of airborne operations. These modes include expanded hover, system identification, transition, and cruise flight.”