HI Uplift: LCI orders up to 40 Chaparral VTOLs
Operating lessor LCI is broadening its commitment to advanced air mobility (AAM) with an order for up to 40 Chaparral vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft from Elroy Air. The order for the autonomous cargo aircraft complements LCI’s order last April for 50 piloted Alia 250s, with an option for up to 125 aircraft, from eVTOL manufacturer Beta Technologies.
Jaspal Jandu, CEO, LCI told Helicopter Investor: “LCI strongly believes these emerging technologies are complementary to our existing commercial fixed-wing and multi-mission helicopter investments. As many of these new designs move towards commercial operation, we will support innovation in this industry and be able to offer leasing and financing options to customers.”
Under the terms of the deposit-backed agreement, LCI will initially acquire 20 aircraft with an option for a total of up to 40 units.
The Chaparral autonomous VTOL cargo delivery system is designed for aerial transport of up to 500lbs (225kgs) of goods over a range of 300 nautical miles. The aircraft is powered by a turbine-based hybrid-electric powertrain with distributed electrical propulsion and is equipped with aerodynamic modular cargo pods. Elroy Air is developing an autonomous VTOL cargo delivery system using pods which can be pre-loaded to reduce downtime.
Under development at Elroy Air’s facility in South San Francisco, California, the Chaparral (pictured above) is designed to deliver efficient and cost-effective aerial cargo transport for commercial logistics, disaster relief, fire-fighting and humanitarian operations. Its autonomous operation means the aircraft can undertake missions without risk to pilots or the need for airport infrastructure, according to the company.
“This commitment for the pioneering Chaparral system will enable us to efficiently support mission critical, remote logistical work and socially responsible humanitarian efforts around the world,” he said.
The CEO explained how the order will complement its existing partnership with Beta Technologies. “Both Beta and Elroy Air are developing products for mission-critical operations, each having a slightly approach to the market. While the Beta Alia is a piloted, all-electric aircraft capable of both vertical and conventional take-off, the Chaparral will initially have turbine-based hybrid-electric powertrain capable of operating with current fuels including SAF [sustainable aviation fuel].” That means the two aircraft serve different markets, with the Chaparral capable of operating in more remote regions without the support of intensive infrastructure.
Jandu added that the Elroy Air partnership forms part of LCI’s wider advanced air mobility strategy and will strengthen its position as a leading provider of leasing, financing and investing solutions for this “new and exciting market”. Active in the commercial fixed-wing, helicopter and advanced air mobility sectors, the company is prioritising the development of innovative solutions for customers and investing in the latest technology products. “We deem our partnerships in the AAM and eVTOL market as an extension of this strategy, supporting these emerging new technologies while also reinforcing our commitment to sustainability,” said Jandu.
The lessor is working with Elroy Air to introduce the Chaparral into service as soon as is practical. “Each AAM developer is working through their designs, tests and certification processes, and these developments will take a few years,” he said.
David Merrill, CEO and co-founder, Elroy Air said the Chaparral was part of a safe, efficient, and capable fleet of aircraft to respond in emergency situations, protect pilots, and enable rapid logistics in a new and sustainable way.
“Through our agreement with LCI, the Chaparral will be available for financing – enabling much broader access to the aircraft,” said Merrill. “We are proud that the Chaparral will now be part of LCI’s aviation fleet and look forward to providing aerial cargo transport globally.”
The Chaparral order will enable LCI to “support mission critical, remote logistical work and socially responsible humanitarian efforts around the world,” Jaspal Jandu, CEO, LCI told Helicopter Investor.