• US startup Elroy Air plans autonomous heavy delivery drones.
  • Its Elroy Air Chaparral is due to be tested this year, for possible commercial deployment by 2020.
  • The company plans to automate the loading and unloading process too.

By 2020 US startup company Elroy Air hopes to have a fleet of autonomous delivery drones in commercial operation, delivering packages without human intervention.

In February Elroy Air closed a $9.2 million (around R130 million) funding round from a group of investors, to take it through testing this year. 

The company secured seed funding at the end of 2017 to build prototype drones considerably larger than the small-package delivery units in the works from other drone companies. Instead of delivering to homes – possible only with smaller drones in densely populated areas – Elroy envisages its system being used to deliver packages over medium distances in rural areas, or between distribution centres.

That could shorten supply chains and delivery times.

Elroy is named after what it considers the coolest member of the Jetsons family.

Its Chaparral concept is rated to carry up to 225 kilograms of cargo for nearly 500 kilometres. It takes off and lands vertically.

It is designed to be shipped in a standard shipping container.

The Chaparral has been validated in the form of a smaller model, but full-scale testing is still to be conducted.

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