Since December 2016, Elroy Air has been working on its planned autonomous freight-delivery aircraft called the Chaparral. The California-based startup achieved a first flight with its prototype in August 2019. In January 2020, the program received a boost through a partnership agreement with EmbraerX.
Elroy says it aims to achieve type certification for the Chaparral under FAA's Special Class 21.17 (b) rules in 2022.
The aim is that the Chaparral will be able to operate completely autonomously, including the loading and unloading of cargo payloads weighing up to 500 pounds. The hybrid-electric aircraft will be operate on routes of up to around 300 miles.
The program has received financial support from the U.S. Air Force's Agility Prime program and in December 2020 was awarded a further Phase 3 small business innovation research contract. At the time, the company said it intended to be ready to start full flight trials during the second half of 2021. Elroy Air is also working with NASA in its Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign.
In August of 2021, Lockheed Martin Ventures, among other investors, backed the Elroy eVTOL's $40 million Series A funding round, which will support the California start-up’s efforts to bring the Chaparral large drone into commercial service for a variety of middle-mile express delivery and defense logistics applications. The funding round takes the total capital raised by Elroy to $48 million. It was also supported by Marlinspike Capital and Prosperity7 Ventures, along with existing backers including Catapult Ventures, Diamond Stream Partners, Side X Side Management, Shield Capital Partners, and Precursor Ventures.
In late January 2022, Elroy Air revealed a prototype of its Chaparral. Elroy stated that the Chaparral will be able to carry up to 500 pounds over 300 miles. It also stated that it holds agreements to purchase 500 Chaparrals with a possible value of $1 billion.