The company is targeting the US government as a customer first, with a start date of 2021. This will be followed by overseas governments, then the US domestic commercial cargo market.
The San Francisco-based company was founded in November 2016 by David Merrill, CEO and Clint Cope, VP engineering. Elroy Air initially pursued the electric aircraft VTOL air taxi market, but turned to autonomous cargo aircraft to avoid starting out dealing with the complications of passenger-carrying certification.
In December 2017, the company secured US$4.6 million of seed funding, led by aerial mobility investor Levitate Capital.
The tandem-wing design to be employed in the air cargo role has a pusher propeller for forward flight, six propellers under twin booms for vertical lift and a pod to carry 150 lb (68 kg) of cargo under the central fuselage. The hybrid electric powertrain has variable-pitch rotors with a large diameter to turn more slowly, for redundancy and to reduce noise.
Its 150 mi (240 km) operational radius is optimized for express logistics. Ground robots are planned to be employed for ground handling and one pilot would be responsible for an entire aircraft fleet.
By early 2018, a full-scale prototype had been tested at Half Moon Bay Airport, south of San Francisco. Its lift system—rotors, motors and controllers—was rigged on a truck-based testbed to verify the lift produced and the noise levels for urban areas operations. In early 2018 a subscale prototype was under construction to validate the aerodynamics and controls, with ground testing planned in early March 2018 and first flight by late March. The full-scale aircraft is forecast to be flown by late summer 2018.