The Chaparral C1, introduced at the beginning of 2022, features a carbon composite airframe with a unique cargo pod underneath. Each of these pods needs to be pre-packaged by ground personnel, but Chapparal then picks them up automatically, creating something like a conveyor belt in the sky. The aircraft picks up, drops, and then picks up the next pod all on its own. It can also fit inside a standard shipping container or in an aircraft so that it can be used for global deployment.
By combining electrical propulsion with conventional turbines, Chaparral can also ensure greater range compared to purely electric eVTOLs. This allows it to transport up to 500 lb (226 kg) over 300 miles (482 km).
The San Francisco-based Elroy Air designed and developed this unique concept. In just one year, it claimed to have secured $2 billion worth of orders for 900 units.
One of the customers was Bristow, who announced it would be buying 100 Chaparral aircraft last summer. Bristow is a great example of how the traditional vertical flight industry is slowly embracing the new-generation eVTOLs. The Texan company is planning to add 455 eVTOLs to its fleet from various manufacturers, such as Beta Technologies, Vertical Aerospace, and Lilium.
The Californian Chaparral will primarily be used for quickly transporting time-sensitive cargo across multiple sectors, from standard logistics to health and energy. The 100 cargo eVTOLs won't be limited to the Texas area but operate internationally. Bristow has reserved early delivery slots, so the first five Chaparral aircraft should be arriving in Texas soon.
In the meantime, Elroy Air is operating a flight test facility at the Byron Airport in California for full-scale testing.
Bristow isn't leaving helicopters behind. In order to make conventional rotorcraft operations greener, it started using SAF (sustainable aviation fuel). In 2021, a Bristow-operated S92 helicopter carried out one of the first SAF-powered flights in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). It was considered a milestone in the offshore energy industry worldwide. One year later, Bristow and bp kicked off regular flights to offshore installations powered by blended SAF, and the Texan company committed to using this alternative fuel for several of its operations.
By fueling its standard helicopters with blended SAF and renewing its fleet with innovative eVTOLs, Bristow is showing us what the future of air logistics could look like.