FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., is working with aviation company Elroy Air to deliver packages via autonomous drones.
San Francisco-based Elroy Air claims to be building the first end-to-end, autonomous electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aerial cargo system, the Chapparal. It has been working with FedEx since 2020.
FedEx Express said it plans to test Elroy Air’s technology within the company’s middle-mile logistics operations, moving shipments between sortation locations. The companies plan to begin test flighting by 2023, after receiving the proper certifications.
Elroy Air unveiled its pre-production Chaparral autonomous aircraft in January 2022. The company said the eVTOL cargo system can autonomously pick up 300 to 500 lb. of cargo and deliver it by air up to 300 mi. The Chaparral is capable of longer-range flights without the need for additional infrastructure, such as airports or charging stations, said Elroy Air.
FedEx said this is part of its efforts to explore and adopt emerging technologies across its networks.
E-commerce provides lift for automation
The exponential growth of e-commerce has accelerated the demand for reliable, efficient transportation and logistics options throughout all stages of the supply chain, according to FedEx.
Online retail globally last year amounted to approximately $4.9 trillion, according to Statista.com. It is projected to grow 50% over the next four years, with an estimated $7.4 trillion dollars being spent by 2025.
FedEx said it believes that continued innovation and automation will improve safety, efficiency, and productivity for its 600,000 team members.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and we are always looking toward new technologies to help enhance the logistics industry through improved safety, efficiency, and customer service,” said Joe Stephens, senior vice president for global planning, engineering, and technology at FedEx Express. “We look forward to continued testing and learning throughout our collaboration with Elroy Air.”
“We are proud to work with FedEx to build the next generation of express logistics,” said Kofi Assante, Elroy Air’s vice president of business development and strategy. “When you’re not limited by challenging infrastructure, traffic, or airports, logistics can reach more people faster than ever before. We look forward to working together to create a new future for how we get goods to people around the world.”