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FedEx teams up with aviation firm on autonomous cargo plane deliveries

A FedEx worker stacks packages on a cart on December 02, 2019 in San Francisco, California.

A FedEx employee stacks packages on a cart on December 02, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
Photograph: Justin Sullivan (Getty Photographs)

It’s 2020, and whereas the skies aren’t stuffed with flying cars like we thought it will be by now, one thing else straight out of science fiction simply bought nearer to actuality: pilotless cargo planes delivering no matter silly shit you ordered on-line.

FedEx is partnering with Dependable Robotics to include the agency’s unmanned plane into its supply fleet, FedEx CEO Fred Smith mentioned throughout an annual stockholder meeting final week that has largely flown underneath the radar.

Dependable Robotics, an aviation startup run by former Tesla and SpaceX engineers, accomplished check flights for 2 of its remote-piloted plane fashions final month, per a company press release. In accordance with Federal Aviation Administration paperwork, FedEx now owns the bigger mannequin of the 2, the Cessna 208 Caravan or C208, a single-engine aircraft that may carry as much as 14 passengers. You possibly can watch a video of the aircraft’s absolutely automated distant touchdown here.

“This initiative offers with smaller turboprop airplanes and on this case the single-engine C208, which we’re taking a look at placing in very distant and uninhabited areas as a part of our community,” Smith mentioned.

FedEx isn’t phasing out its present supply plane fleet simply but, nonetheless. Smith informed stockholders that the corporate’s plane crews don’t want to fret about their jobs turning into automated “for the foreseeable future—a long time, I might say.”

This partnership is a part of FedEx’s bigger effort to chop down on supply prices, particularly in that notorious last mile earlier than it arrives at your step, by means of partially automating its provide chain. On Sept. 19, the air supply firm Wing announced it was teaming up with FedEx Categorical and different retailers to roll out a pilot program for drone deliveries in Virginia. FedEx additionally unveiled its in-house fleet of autonomous delivery robots final yr to assist retailers with same-day and last-mile deliveries.

They’re one in every of a number of corporations racing to achieve a foothold within the automated supply market. Alphabet, the mother or father firm of Google, and UPS have each already obtained federal approval for his or her drone supply providers, and the FAA licensed Amazon’s program in August. Dependable Robotics mentioned in its launch that it’s “now working with the FAA on incrementally bringing this know-how to market,” so it might be on its strategy to securing federal approval.

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Alyse Stanley