The e-commerce industry has experienced rapid growth over the past few years, forcing logistics providers like FedEx to accelerate automation and innovation to keep up. The company is now joining forces with California-based eVTOL cargo drone manufacturer Elroy Air to explore autonomous solutions within its middle-mile delivery operations.
As a part of this agreement, FedEx will develop plans to test Elroy Air’s Chaparral autonomous air cargo system within the company’s middle-mile logistics operations, moving shipments between sortation locations.
Elroy Air announced its signature Chaparral autonomous aircraft in January 2022. The air cargo system can autonomously pick up 300-500 pounds (136-226 kg) of goods and deliver them by air up to 300 miles (482 km). It carries its contents in a canoe-shaped container fixed to its belly and uses electric-gas hybrid propulsion to achieve its impressive range.
The delivery drone is capable of longer-range flights without the need for additional infrastructures, such as airports or charging stations. It is also designed to fit in a 40-foot shipping container or C-130 cargo aircraft, enabling it to be quickly shipped and deployed anywhere in the world.
“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 of global planning, engineering, and technology, FedEx Express. “We look forward to continued testing and learning throughout our collaboration with Elroy Air.”
FedEx and Elroy Air have been working together since January 2020 and will continue their collaboration to pursue certifications and begin flight testing in 2023.