Elroy Air, a Lemnos portfolio company, recently announced that it secured $4.6 million in seed funding to develop its large autonomous cargo delivery aircraft. While companies such as Amazon are developing small delivery drones, the Elroy Air aircraft is capable of delivering 150 pounds of goods up to 300 miles. With its air cargo system, Elroy Air hopes to bridge the gap between lower-cost but slow truck-based transport and more expensive traditional air transport.
This seed funding round was led by Levitate Capital, Homebrew, Shasta Ventures, and Lemnos, and the funds will be used toward the development of their v1 aircraft system. The company is currently building a sub-scale prototype and full-scale aircraft system that will be test-flown in 2018.
Co-founder Dave Merrill credits Lemnos with helping Elroy Air achieve its early success. “They are good counsel. It was useful to have regular meetings and gut checks on how we are approaching product development, etc.,” says Merrill. “It was like having a team that is bigger with more experienced people, and the community is great. Starting at Lemnos allowed us a place to tap into experience and pre-seed funding and to immediately start building. It’s like an engineering and product-development clubhouse where you can start creating the machines of the future.”
Elroy Air’s machine of the future is an autonomous cargo aircraft that features rotor-based vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and a propeller for forward movement. Fixed wing cruise flight and a hybrid powertrain boost its efficiency for long range. The customer-ready aircraft will use lidar, radar, cameras, and will integrate into local air-traffic management. It will fly 100 miles per hour. On the ground it will maneuver itself to pick up cargo autonomously and fit into three parking spaces.
“The Elroy Air logistics system with autonomous flight and ground operations is a safe, reliable, and efficient way to transport large cargo by air,” says Merrill. “Our hybrid VTOL aircraft is the core of our system, but the sophisticated ground and cargo-handling robotics we are developing will allow full integration with existing logistics workflows, enabling us to provide flexible air cargo transport capabilities to our customers without needing airport infrastructure.”
The Elroy Air system is designed not only with commercial cargo transport in mind, but is also well suited to military re-supply and disaster relief. In October last year, the Elroy Air team participated in the Disaster Airlift Response Team exercise in Half Moon Bay in collaboration with CalFire, the San Mateo County Offices of Emergency Services, the local Red Cross, and the Coastside Emergency Corps.
If you are interested in joining Elroy Air, they are currently hiring for a variety of engineering positions.
Also, be sure to stay tuned for this Thursday’s release of the next episode (Season 2, Episode 5) of Lemnos’ podcast, “Into the Forge”, which features an interview with Elroy Air co-founders Dave Merrill and Clint Cope.