Taking steps to launch test flights focused on mid-mile delivery in 2023, FedEx Express, a subsidiary of global freight and logistics service provider FedEx, and San Francisco-based Elroy Air, a developer of autonomous aircraft systems and software focused on expanding the reach of global express transportation, said this week they are collaborating to build what they say is the world’s first autonomous take-off and landing air cargo system vertical (VTOL) end-to-end.
Much of this U.S.-based partnership revolves around FedEx Express developing plans to test Elroy Air’s Chaparral autonomous air cargo system in FedEx Express midstream logistics operations and move shipments between locations. of sorting. The companies have been collaborating since January 2020.
Joe Stephens, senior vice president, global planning, engineering and technology, FedEx Express, told LM that FedEx believes continued innovation and automation will improve safety, efficiency and productivity for the approximately 600,000 members of company team as they continue to drive the world forward. .
“As we explore opportunities to strengthen our midstream capabilities within the FedEx Express network, we seek end solutions that touch these three key pillars for our customers and our team members,” he said. “We believe this collaboration can tap into that potential, as the Chapparal can autonomously pick up 300 to 500 pounds of cargo and deliver by air up to 300 miles without the need for additional infrastructure, such as airports or stations. charging.”
As for examples of how this collaboration can be leveraged, Stephens noted how this technology could be particularly useful in rural scenarios, or places like the Caribbean or Hawaiian Islands and where there is maybe not enough cargo to send a small plane, or maybe even a truck.
“These drones could help improve reliability and service for FedEx customers in these and similar scenarios,” he said.
As to what drove the partnership between FedEx Express and Elroy Air, Stephens said there were many different driving forces for this collaboration, adding that the rampant growth of e-commerce, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic COVID-19, increased demand. for reliable and efficient transport and logistics solutions.
“FedEx has decided to put more emphasis on innovative, self-sustaining projects that will improve safety, efficiency and productivity,” he said. “FedEx and Elroy Air have been working together since early 2020. Working with Elroy Air early in their development allowed FedEx to share potential use cases and anticipated requirements, which would make it easier for FedEx Express to test and potential to integrate Chaparral into network operations.This early collaboration also allowed FedEx to stay abreast of the development of Elroy Air’s drone program and prepare for the launch of Chaparral earlier this year.
Regarding the key benefits of this collaboration for FedEx customers, Stephens said they can expect more efficient and reliable middle mile operations, which includes transportation between sorting locations, between the hub and the station, the ramp and the station or the station to the station.
“The use of Elroy Air’s Chapparal aircraft eliminates the need for airport landings and new infrastructure, such as charging stations, which strengthens delivery operations across the United States, especially near islands and remote areas,” he said. “As with most of our innovations, improving the customer experience and delivery operations is at the heart of this pilot project.”
From a competitive perspective, for FedEx, he said the exponential growth of e-commerce has accelerated the demand for reliable, self-driving solutions at all stages of the supply chain, adding that FedEx believes that innovation and continuous automation will improve safety, efficiency, and workforce productivity.
“This strategic collaboration is the first of its kind and gives FedEx the opportunity to thoughtfully integrate this technology into our operations,” he said. “Additionally, having worked with Elroy Air from the beginning, since 2020, we had the opportunity to provide insights into the operational factors to enable this technology to seamlessly integrate with the FedEx network. It is the latest standalone innovation in our growing portfolio of advanced technologies that enables us to grow volumes exponentially, especially through e-commerce. Additionally, the use of the Chaparral could also align with the FedEx 2040 carbon neutral operations goal, as it is a self-driving hybrid-electric aircraft.
Kofi Asante, vice president of business development and strategy at Elroy Air, said in a statement that Elroy Air is proud to work with FedEx to build the next generation of express logistics.
“When you’re not limited by challenging infrastructure, traffic or airports, logistics can reach more people, faster than ever before,” Asante said. “We look forward to working together to create a new future for the way we get goods to people around the world.”
About the Author
Jeff Berman, Group News Editor Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics management, Modern material handlingand Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight forwarding and material handling industries on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman