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This pilotless aircraft will test cargo delivery for FedEx

Elroy Air is teaming up with FedEx to test cargo delivery using the autonomous Chaparral C1 aircraft that it unveiled earlier this year.

A rendering of the latest version of Elroy Air's autonomous aircraft flying over a roadway, with a building in the distance.
Elroy Air

Founded in 2016 and based in San Francisco, Elroy Air is working on developing the first end-to-end autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aerial cargo system, and FedEx is interested in incorporating it into its delivery setup.

FedEx announced this week that it plans to test integration of Elroy Air’s aircraft for its middle-mile operations, which involves moving consignments between its sorting depots.

The pilotless Chaparral C1 aircraft, shown in the video below, is capable of transporting up to 500 pounds of goods over a 300-mile range, carrying the cargo in a large removable compartment beneath the fuselage. The firm says its flying machine will create a “conveyor belt through the sky” while offering a service that’s “faster than ground transport [at] lower cost than today’s traditional aircraft.”

Elroy Air Chaparral C1 Unveil: Short Edit

FedEx said it’s interested in making use of the autonomous technology as it could help it deal with the increasing demands placed on its service by the growing popularity of e-commerce.

“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,” FedEx Express executive Joe Stephens said as part of this week’s announcement. “We look forward to continued testing and learning throughout our collaboration with Elroy Air.”

Elroy Air’s Kofi Asante said his team is “proud to work with FedEx to build the next generation of express logistics,” adding: “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.”

The two companies have been working together since 2020, with FedEx offering Elroy Air information on its various requirements.

That partnership is now being taken to the next level as the teams examine how FedEx can realistically incorporate the aircraft into its shipping service, with the deepening collaboration taking place alongside the first flight tests of the Chaparral C1 in 2023.

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