FedEx is getting ready to boost its overall supply chain efficiency by partnering with Elroy Air, a company that is building the world’s first autonomous, aerial cargo system. FedEx is planning on using the Chaparral C1, which was unveiled in January of this year, to move shipments between its cargo facilities, thereby expediting the delivery process.
The explosion of e-commerce in recent years has been a primary motivation for the move, as more and more consumers around the country are relying on online shopping and, thus, quick deliveries to their homes.
Elroy Air claims that its autonomous, vertical take-off and landing drone is capable of picking up cargo shipments between 300 and 500 pounds and moving them up to 300 miles. Additionally, the Chaparral can undertake even longer flights without the need for airport stops or charging stations. FedEx won’t even really need to worry about that, though, considering the shipment and logistics company will be implementing the Chaparral for the purpose of moving loads of cargo relatively short distances between depot locations.
The future is now — Aside from an improved end-to-end delivery process, using this autonomous delivery system will have a number of other, cascading effects. It will lower FedEx’s reliance on trucks to move cargo between its shipment locations, which effectively outsources part (albeit a small part, considering the weight capacity of the drone) of the overall supply chain to automation. If this move goes over well, we would imagine other shipment behemoths might even follow suit.
FedEx and Elroy Air have been working together since January 2020, and flight testing for the Chaparral will begin in 2023 as the pair attempts to receive certifications for the vehicle to be used commercially. The testing is supposed to take place in Fort Worth, Texas, and, if successful, would allow FedEx to move cargo between its Fort Worth and Oklahoma City locations.