Issue 45 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Aug/Sept 2022 Tidewie USV Tupan | Performance monitoring | Bayonet 350 | UAVs insight | Xponential 2022 | ULPower UL350i and UL350iHPS | Elroy Air Chaparral | Gimbals | Clogworks Dark Matter

92 O ver the past few years, technological maturity among UAVs built for last- mile logistics has spilled over into more complex aircraft systems designed for transporting heavier packages for aggregated middle- mile deliveries. One such system is being developed by Elroy Air, which was founded to provide large, uncrewed aerial courier services for shifting hundreds of kilos of cargo across hundreds of kilometres at great speed. Its core team includes experienced UAV developers with a common interest in pursuing what they saw as a growing variety of professional aircraft. “We quickly received feedback that a large cargo drone would be valuable not just for express parcel logistics but also humanitarian aid, military resupply and more,” says David Merrill, Elroy Air’s CEO and co-founder. “The enthusiasm from our three major customer groups gave us confidence that developing our ideal aircraft was worth pursuing.” Merrill and his team began exploring different configurations, including large multi-rotors and winged aircraft, as well as some studies into solutions for the technically similar urban air mobility (UAM) space. In 2019, the company’s r&d led to a test flight for an early prototype of what would become the Chaparral C1, Elroy Air’s pre-production version of its flagship Chaparral UAV. “That early flight test campaign proved out several of the key technical directions that we’ve used and matured in the C1,” Merrill says. “Having confirmed our team’s ability to execute and validate several key technologies, we continued on towards the C1, developing the concept further – of a powerful and fast method of autonomous freight delivery that doesn’t depend on airports – then building it and validating systems internally along the way.” Designing the Chaparral The pre-production Chaparral was unveiled to the public in January, taking the form of a transitioning VTOL hybrid- electric UAV that will ultimately carry 136- 227 kg of freight over more than 480 km in its mature form. The system forgoes tilt-rotor mechanisms or tail-sitting behaviour; instead it uses entirely fixed-pitch rotors in a ‘lift-plus-cruise’ fixed-wing/multi- Although still at the prototype stage, this hybrid-electric VTOL-transitioning UAV is garnering a lot of interest for heavyweight deliveries, as Rory Jackson explains Going the middle mile August/September 2022 | Uncrewed Systems Technology