The company has teamed up with Elroy Air, which is developing a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) cargo drone, to transport packages between sorting centers via autonomous flights.
Elroy Air unveiled the Chaparral C1 drone in January, and the company claims the hybrid electric system has a range of 300 miles and can carry up to 500 pounds of payload in its cargo box (so FedEx will need plenty of it if it eventually wants to replace the planes). The drone has 12 electric motors and 12 propellers.
FedEx noted in a press release that the Chaparral C1 does not require specific infrastructure such as an airport or dedicated cargo terminal, and added that the adoption of aircraft lines is aimed at making operations carbon neutral by 2040.
The companies have been collaborating for more than two years and have been working on certification to use the Chaparral C1 commercially, and things are going well and the plan is to start test flights in 2023 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Autonomous freight flights can enable FedEx to move packages between sorting centers more efficiently than on-the-ground, Chaparral C1 in pre-production (flight speed is not yet known).
And if it works as promised, FedEx will be able to fly goods from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City.