January 10, 2020: EmbraerX, innovation-focused subsidiary of Embraer and Elroy Air, a cargo drone developer announced a collaboration agreement, where EmbraerX can access to the commercial air cargo market and gives Elroy Air access to Embraer’s expertise in technical development of aviation equipment.
Making commercial cargo drone operations feasible from both a financial and infrastructure standpoint has been an early challenge faced by companies hoping to enter the space, with many competing models already emerging. While early in its own development, Elroy Air is already discussing different models with potential customers, Dave Merrill, Elroy Air CEO and co-founder said.
“In order to stay the course of creating solutions that benefit humanity at large, we believe the cargo market is prime for an autonomous aircraft,” said Antonio Campello, president & CEO, EmbraerX. “Booming ecommerce is forcing the cargo market to grow and seek new solutions, creating a distinct need for more flexibility. Our holistic approach to accelerating this market will include working with Elroy Air and its Chaparral system, capable of delivering cargo (250-500 lbs) over distances up to 300 miles, as well as our work in associated services and air traffic management solutions.”
The ability for drones to operate express logistics networks in places that would be cost-prohibitive or otherwise difficult by conventional means is “interesting [to] some customers already operating fleets of aircraft that want to incorporate our system into the fleet,” Merrill explained. Other customers are interested in introducing cargo drone operations into their networks without having other aviation operations in place, which would leave Elroy Air operating the entire air network for those customers. “It’s early enough to explore both models, with no need to commit to one yet or maybe ever,” he added.
Elroy Air’s large vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial cargo aircraft completed its first full-scale system flight test in August 2019. The UAV is equipped with special cargo-handling capabilities for picking up and dropping off pods of cargo unattended, requiring little interaction from people, and “aims to be the pickup truck of the sky,” Merrill said.
Regarding the benefits of the partnership with EmbraerX, Merrill said the advisory benefits to Elroy Air are substantial, allowing Elroy to reach the right person at Embraer when drone development raises technical or engineering questions.