Elroy Air’s autonomous hybrid aircraft can now pick up cargo containers on its own

Autonomous aircraft transportation seems like a sure thing at this point — in particular for cargo, where safety concerns around potential harm to people isn’t as much of an issue. One company pursuing this goal is Elroy Air, which has developed a hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft that can carry more than 300 lbs of cargo for up to 300 miles — a good distance for replacing some medium-haul ground-freight routes.

Now, Elroy Air is demonstrating some new aspects of their system, including the ability to pick up cargo containers on its own without any loading processes needing to be handled by humans. That’s a mighty interesting feature, and one that could potentially make possible a lot of efficiency gains in a cargo operation, like round-the-clock operation and relatively low-lift urgent deliveries of large volumes of emergency supplies.

Elroy is betting that its approach, which includes the autonomous cargo loading and loading features, as well as a hybrid fuel system that offers efficiency but also doesn’t require any major charging infrastructure to operate, could help it commercialize its services ahead of other types of designs. It’s aiming to serve a range of customers across commercial, humanitarian and military industries, and completed its first test flight earlier this year.