EmbraerX, the Brazilian planemaker’s innovation subsidiary, has signed a collaboration agreement with Silicon Valley drone delivery startup Elroy Air for the purpose of developing the unnamed air cargo market worldwide.
The announcement, made at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on 8 January, positions Embraer as an “ecosystem player” in the area of urban air mobility, the disruptive business subsidiary’s president and chief executive Antonio Campello tells FlightGlobal.
The companies did not disclose details about the collaboration such as time frame or cost, but say they are already at work together and hope to present results soon.
“The objective of this collaboration is to bring Embraer’s 50 years of experience to Elroy Air, and for Elroy Air to bring to Embraer the mindset of a startup,” Campello says. “We have a vision of the future that urban air mobility, of people or cargo transport, will bring lots of benefit to society and it is also a huge business opportunity.”
Elroy Air, founded in 2016, calls itself “an autonomy and logistics platform company developing industry-advancing autonomous aircraft systems and software to deliver cargo rapidly and flexibly by air”. Its vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft, the Chaparral, can operate outside of airport infrastructure and carry 250-500 lbs (114-136kg) of cargo over 300 miles (480km). It envisions commercial, humanitarian aid and military missions for the craft.
“Moving from A to B, in disaster zones or firefighting situations, also in urban environments - less investment will be needed for infrastructure if you consider the third dimension,” EmbraerX’s Campello says. “You don’t need to have new airports or helipads, you use existing infrastructure. Building a skyport is cheaper than building roads. Developing countries can reach isolated areas without huge investments for ground transportation networks.”
Elroy’s Chaparral has a hybrid-electric powertrain, requires no charging stations and loads and unloads cargo autonomously.
“Elroy is a good cultural fit for us,” Campello adds. “They have a bold vision and are proposing something that also has everything to do with our vision of the future.”
In addition to assisting with development of drone hardware, EmbraerX aims to create a dedicated air traffic control (ATC) system for the urban air mobility industry that can accommodate growing capacity as a result of the ever-expanding ecommerce market. Campello sees Elroy as the perfect partner to do so.
“The simplification and automation of transportation will be important and will led to more demand and more traffic,” Campello says. Embraer will also bring its expertise in developing these processes and achieving certification to the collaboration with Elroy.
Last year, EmbraerX penned a white paper on traffic management for urban air mobility called FlightPlan 2030. In it, the company put forth ideas about how air traffic management for urban air mobility needs to evolve in order to allow the industry to scale safely.
“We believe an urban traffic management solution must provide shared situation awareness for all stakeholders, enable equitable airspace access, minimise risk, optimise airspace use and provide flexible and adaptable airspace structures,” the report reads. “Our solution prioritises a procedures-based approach toward growing UAM operations while minimising impacts on air traffic control.”