FedEx Plans To Test Drone Cargo Delivery in 2023

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

FedEx announced on Wednesday (March 30th) that its Express division is teaming up with Elroy Air to test out drone cargo systems in 2023.

At a Glance

  • FedEx will develop plans to test Elroy Air’s Chaparral autonomous air cargo system within its middle-mile logistics operations. 
  • FedEx believes drone usage will improve safety, efficiency, and productivity for its 600,000 employees. 
  • Chaparral can autonomously pick up between 300 and 500 pounds of cargo. It can also drop off cargo at destinations up to 300 miles away. 

According to a press release, FedEx stated that its Express division will develop plans to test out Elroy Air’s Chaparral air cargo system within its middle-mile logistics operations. It will be moving shipments between sortation locations. The shipping brand believes that the use of drones will actually improve the safety as well as efficiency and productivity of its 600,000 employees.

FedEx further reports that Elroy Air debuted its Chaparral aircraft in January 2022. The drone autonomously picks up 300 to 500 pounds of cargo and delivers it by air up to 300 miles. Joe Stephens, Senior Vice President of Global Planning, Engineering, and Technology at FedEx Express, also spoke about the collaboration. “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 and Elroy Air will reportedly begin flight testing in 2023. Kofi Asante, Elroy Air’s VP of Business Development and Strategy, further shares,  “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.”

FedEx Previously Launched Drone Delivery Pilot Program With Alphabet’s Wings in 2019

FedEx previously announced it launched a drone delivery program with Alphabet’s Wing in 2019. In a release that year, FedEx stated that Wing drone would transport select packages to qualifying homes in Christiansburg, Virginia. This would demonstrate the benefits of drone delivery for last-mile delivery services. 

FedEx also stated at the time that Wings received the first authorization from the FAA to conduct scheduled, commercial drone package delivery to residences. President and CEO of FedEx Express, Don Colleran, spoke about the collaboration. “Innovation has been part of the FedEx DNA since day one. And we are always looking for new and better ways to deliver the world to our customers’ doorsteps.”

Colleran also said that he and his team hope that the addition to FedEx’s delivery options would enhance the last-mile service for urgent same-day deliveries.

FedEx was also participating in the U.S. DOT’s Unmanned Aircraft System IPP in conjunction with the Memphis Shelby-County Airport Authority.