FedEx to test cargo drones
Memphis, Tennessee, UNITED STATES – Another drone company will be exploring the middle-distance cargo drone space very soon.
And in doing so, the company will usher FedEx’s turn to join the cargo drone party.
FedEx Corp’s subsidiary, FedEx Express, one of the world’s largest express transportation company, is teaming up with California-based drone company Elroy Air, to build an end-to-end autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial cargo system.
Set to be the first agreement of its kind in the US, the partnership, the partnership will see FedEx Express testing 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 flagship Chaparral autonomous aircraft in January 2022, an eVTOL aerial cargo system that can autonomously carry 300-500 pounds of cargo and deliver it to destinations 300 miles away. According to the manufacturer, the Chaparral cargo drone is capable of longer-range flights without the need for additional infrastructure, such as airports or charging stations.
“We are proud to work with FedEx to build the next generation of express logistics,” said Kofi Asante, Elroy Air’s VP 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.”
For FedEx, this is the latest initiative in the company’s effort to explore and adopt emerging technologies across its networks.
FedEx and Elroy Air have been working together since January 2020 and are targeting to start testing in 2023.
As Asante says, Elroy Air aims to figure out how it can effectively integrate its aircraft into FedEx ramps and stations as seamlessly as possible for testing. This includes determining with FedEx what freight goes on the Chaparral versus other transportation modes, how many aircraft are required per location and flight takeoff and landing details.
Elroy Air has already secured order agreements for more than 500 aircraft with commercial, defense and humanitarian customers, according to this January news release. Mesa Airlines, a regional airline with partners including DHL, United Airlines and American Airlines, intends to order 150 aircraft for express parcel and healthcare delivery.
FedEx says the exponential blow up of e-commerce has accelerated the demand for reliable, efficient transportation and logistics solutions throughout all stages of the supply chain. The logistics company believes that continued innovation and automation will improve safety, efficiency, and productivity for the company’s 600,000 employees.
“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, global planning, engineering and technology, FedEx Express.
“We look forward to continued testing and learning throughout our collaboration with Elroy Air.”