Large Silicon Valley companies such as Apple and Amazon are heavily invested in efforts to develop drones that can deliver food and other items to people’s doorsteps. Their efforts have been commendable but it is looking likely that they may not be the first ones to reach the finish line in the race to successful home drone delivery. A relatively small startup company, Elroy Air, is currently ahead when it comes to developing long range drones with the right specifications to carry heavy cargo.
Based out of San Francisco, CA, Elroy Air recently raised about $4.6 million from venture capitalists which gives it a total of almost $10 million that it plans to use to develop a cargo drone that will be on the market by 2020. What makes Elroy Air’s drone special is the fact that it can automatically drop off and pick up cargo pods carrying packages that weigh up to 500 pounds and fly them across 300 miles. Elroy Air calls its drone ‘the Chaparral’.
The startup hopes that its drone delivery service will help reduce dependency on regular trucking. Existing delivery companies such as FedEx and UPS are already struggling to find enough truckers for their ground routes. Finding pilots for air deliveries is proving to be even more difficult. The drones will also be able to help with rural routes that have very little demand for regular deliveries. Looking farther ahead, the company believes that its drone delivery system can help governments deliver disaster relief supplies to where they are needed in record time. People who are trapped in rural areas will no longer have to suffer because the road networks are not well developed enough.
The CEO of the company, David Merrill, believes that their drones can be like the Ford F-150 but in the sky. They want their drones to be as reliable, sturdy and affordable as the trucks that many people already rely on every day. Merrill co-founded the company with the company’s head of engineering, Clint Cope. They met while working at another drone development company named 3D Robotics and decided to start out on their own. They originally wanted to design an electric taxi that flew through the air but realized that air travel like that was simply not practical to develop at the time. They realized that the best way to use their resources would be for developing practical solutions for unmanned cargo carriers that specialize in serving rural areas. Working in this particular industry requires less money to develop a working product and there are much fewer regulatory obstacles to deal with. In as little as a year from now, their drones may be taking to the skies to deliver goods.