Mar 30, 2022 - Economy

FedEx taps Jetsons-inspired Elroy Air for self-flying cargo runs

Image of a self-flying Elroy Air cargo plane approaching a Fed Ex warehouse

Elroy Air's innovative cargo aircraft could help FedEx Express meet logistics demands. Photo courtesy of Elroy Air

FedEx Express will soon begin testing a new short-haul air cargo system using autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft developed by Elroy Air, a California startup named for the boy in the "Jetsons."

Why it matters: Self-flying cargo planes could help FedEx Express move goods among warehouses more safely and efficiently amid the exponential growth of e-commerce.

Driving the news: The companies said they would begin flight testing in 2023 in Fort Worth, Texas, using Elroy's Chaparral autonomous aircraft.

  • Like similar aircraft, Elroy's VTOL ascends and descends like a helicopter but flies like a plane.
  • It can pick up a cargo pod weighing 300 to 500 pounds without human interaction, and can deliver it within a range of 300 miles.
  • Unlike electric VTOLs from other manufacturers, Elroy's plane is a hybrid, so it doesn't require additional infrastructure such as airports or charging stations.

What they're saying: "When you're not limited by challenging infrastructure, traffic or airports, logistics can reach more people, faster than ever before," said Kofi Asante, Elroy Air's vice president of business development and strategy.

  • "We look forward to working together to create a new future for how we get goods to people around the world."

The big picture: The self-flying air cargo system is the latest step by FedEx to find innovative technologies to handle rising delivery volumes.

  • By potentially taking trucks off the road, the hybrid aircraft also helps FedEx toward its goal of carbon-neutral operations by 2040.
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