FedEx Express is teaming up with California Bay Area-based Elroy Air, the company building an end-to-end autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aerial cargo system. As a first of its kind agreement in the U.S., FedEx Express 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. This is the latest initiative from FedEx in its effort to explore and adopt emerging technologies across its networks.
The exponential growth of e-commerce has accelerated the demand for reliable, efficient transportation and logistics solutions throughout all stages of the supply chain. FedEx believes that continued innovation and automation will improve safety, efficiency, and productivity for the company’s 600,000 team members as they continue to move the world forward.
“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.”
Elroy Air announced its signature Chaparral autonomous aircraft in January 2022. The Chaparral aircraft is an eVTOL aerial cargo system that can autonomously pick up 300-500 pounds of cargo and deliver it by air up to 300 miles. The Chaparral 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.”
Why it’s important: 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. FedEx has already utilized autonomous air vehicle technology when in 2019 they delivered a package to a home in Christiansburg, Virginia in collaboration with Alphabet’s Wing Aviation. This previous effort marked the launch of the first scheduled, commercial residential drone delivery service and the first scheduled e-commerce delivery via drone delivery trial in the United States. FedEx’s expansion to using drone logistics for middle-mile transportation signals the company’s perceived value that the technology can bring to its operations.
Source // FedEx press release