The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

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.



type certification granted

Type certification of the Chaparral aircraft

test flight

First test flight of the Chaparral prototype


Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

Elroy Air appears to have financial backing from around a dozen venture capital groups, but the precise scale of its capital base is unknown. The company appears to have an experienced engineering team of around 16 people, including founders Dave Merrill and Clint Cope. Both founders have experience in the development of unmanned aircraft, robotics, and automation technology. 

In December, the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program has awarded a Phase 3 Small Business Innovation Research contract to Elroy Air. The contract, for which the value has not been confirmed, will support technical demonstrations and performance validation of the Chaparral, which is expected to start more extensive flight testing before the end of 2021.

Chaparral Models

Chaparral Specifications

autonomous vtol Fixed Wing


  • Passenger Capacity
  • Range
    300 mi
  • Cruise Speed
  • Powerplant Type
    multi rotor
  • Power Source
  • Endurance
  • Max Altitude
  • Takeoff Distance
  • Landing Distance
  • Empty Weight
    1,200 lb
  • Payload Weight
    500 lb


  • Length
  • Width
  • Height
  • Wingspan

The Chaparral is an autonomously-operated freight-carrying eVTOL aircraft. The hybrid-electric aircraft is expected to carry payloads of up to around 500 pounds on sectors of up to around 300 miles.

The design features six vertical rotors installed on beams running parallel with the main fuselage and connected to it via a main wing and a forward canard.

Key Personnel

Dave Merrill
Dave Merrill

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Founder

Clint Cope
Clint Cope

Founder, President