FedEx to test autonomous drone cargo delivery in 2023

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,127   +154
Staff member
Bottom line: The e-commerce industry has undergone rapid growth over the past few years, prompting logistics providers like FedEx to accelerate automation and innovation to keep pace. The deal with Elroy Air is the first of its kind agreement in the US, and the latest effort by the Memphis, TN-based package delivery company to adopt emerging technologies across its network.

FedEx has announced a partnership with California Bay Area-based Elroy Air to test the company's autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) cargo system next year.

Up to this point, most commercial drone projects have focused on last mile delivery – that is, delivering a single product from a retailer to the buyer. While convenient in certain situations, it's also tedious as the drone has to return to base after each delivery to reload and perhaps even recharge.

Elroy Air is a bit different. The company's flagship Chaparral autonomous aircraft was introduced in January and is designed to autonomously pick up 300-500 pounds of cargo and transport it by air over a distance of up to 300 miles. The craft itself is designed to fit inside a 40-foot shipping container or a C-130 cargo jet for easy shipping and deployment anywhere in the world.

FedEx said it plans to deploy the drones within its middle-mile logistics operations, moving shipments between sorting locations.

It's easy to see how this could be a game-changer for medium and large logistics companies alike. Implementing an automated transportation solution between sorting centers could greatly boost reliability and efficiency, and perhaps even eliminate some human error.

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brucek

Posts: 1,124   +1,666
Please stop running attractive photos of a single, silent drone in a peaceful sky. I want people to start seeing now what it's going to look like as it will actually be deployed. How many drones will be in the air at once? What will the view from the ground be like? How much noise will the combined fleet make? How is traffic managed as the drones depart and approach the ground? (I.e., prevention of collisions between drones & people/cars/pets etc.)

 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,980
Please stop running attractive photos of a single, silent drone in a peaceful sky. I want people to start seeing now what it's going to look like as it will actually be deployed. How many drones will be in the air at once? What will the view from the ground be like? How much noise will the combined fleet make? How is traffic managed as the drones depart and approach the ground? (I.e., prevention of collisions between drones & people/cars/pets etc.)
The collisions should be rare, as even most consumer drones have anti-collision systems... I'd assume that these would have far superior ones.

The noise would be my real concern. I have a DJI Phantom 4 Pro and it is quite noisy - even 100-200 feet high... Imagining dozens or hundreds of larger, noisier drones makes me cringe...
 

brucek

Posts: 1,124   +1,666
"Dozens or hundreds" are not going to be able to move any real fraction of our nation's daily shipping. A major city must have a million plus deliveries per day, right? If each drone can take one box at a time and is in the air for say 15 minutes round trip to do it, and the allowed operations window is say 12 hours, that means one drone can deliver 48 packages. So the fleet to deliver 1M packages is ~21,000 drones.

I realize there's anti-collision that probably works fine when we're basically talking about one drone at a time, but when the air is thick with them and they are trying to land on doorsteps next to a busy sidewalk there's only so much maneuvering room.
 

mgwerner

Posts: 170   +239
The C-130 is a turboprop aircraft, not a jet. While it has a jet turbine, the turbine is geared to a large propeller.

County commissioners will be the ones to look at when these intermediate transfer facilities begin to be built. Pay very close attention to those people, as they will be deciding over whose property these noisy things are flying over 24/7.