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US Companies Leidos and Elroy Air Set to Launch First Flight Test of Chaparral Drone for Military Logistics.

US companies Leidos and Elroy Air, pioneers in the development of autonomous aircraft systems and software, are gearing up to demonstrate the capabilities of the Chaparral, a high-tech aerial resupply drone. This demonstration, scheduled for July 2024 at the US Army Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona, represents a major advance in the field of unmanned tactical aircraft systems under the auspices of the Navy and Marine Corps' PMA-263 program office.

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Elroy Air Chaparral hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft (Picture source: Leidos)

The Chaparral is a "lift-plus-cruise" type hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. Designed to optimize autonomous logistical operations over long distances, it integrates electric propulsion with turbo-generation. This setup not only enhances endurance but also increases efficiency during demanding missions. The aircraft's structure, made from advanced carbon composites, and its modular automated loading capabilities, is designed to reduce the need for personnel on the ground, thus providing essential "zero-contact" logistics for operations in conflict zones.

Tim Freeman, Senior Vice President of Leidos and head of the Airborne Systems sector, emphasizes the significance of this partnership with Elroy Air: "We are thrilled to collaborate with Elroy Air to bring this critical capability to the warfighters. Approval for testing is a key milestone, the result of several months of hard work. We look forward to demonstrating how the MARV-EL solution from Leidos and Elroy Air will provide a significant logistical advantage not only to the Marines but also to other branches of the military."

Dave Merrill, CEO and co-founder of Elroy Air highlights the initial focus of the Chaparral's development: "From the beginning, we designed the Chaparral to transport cargo and resupply troops without exposing crews to danger. This demonstration will be concrete proof of our ability to support the U.S. Marine Corps expeditionary logistics goals."

The MARV-EL program is designed to provide commanders with reactive capabilities to support Marine Corps forces in advanced and dispersed operations, including Expeditionary Advanced Bases (EAB). The Chaparral, with its autonomous operations, is set to become a key unmanned logistical asset of medium weight, ensuring combat support when ground or manned aviation assets are unavailable due to threats, terrain conditions, weather, or competing priorities.

This collaboration between Leidos and Elroy Air could well redefine the standards of military logistics, significantly enhancing the safety and efficiency of resupply missions in challenging combat environments.

PMA-263, or the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems program, is a specific division that oversees the development, acquisition, and deployment of unmanned aerial systems for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Its primary mission is to provide innovative and effective solutions to meet critical needs for reconnaissance, surveillance, and other operational tasks that benefit from the use of drones. PMA-263 plays a crucial role in integrating these advanced technologies into combat strategies, aiming to enhance operational capabilities while ensuring the safety of troops engaged in the field. This unit is responsible for overseeing drone programs ranging from small handheld devices to more complex and larger systems, thus shaping the future of aerial warfare and logistics in the modern military environment.

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