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FedEx laughs off delivery drones while developing its own

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Eight minutes and four beers are all FedEx's current drone project can do, for now

Aeroquad Drone (STOCK)
Aeroquad Drone (STOCK)

FedEx's chief executive today noted that the company is researching drones for package delivery, but said not to expect such a service anytime soon. During a quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts, FedEx CEO Frederick Smith noted that the company's chief information officer is testing drones, but that the current version is highly limited in its capabilities. It "can operate about eight minutes and carry about four Budweiser beers," Smith said, as recounted by The Wall Street Journal. That's well short of a vision Amazon laid out last month to deliver small items by airborne drone within the next four to five years.

Don't expect legions of drones anytime soon

Smith's comments come as a number of companies have discussed the use of drones for delivery. That includes DHL, which last week flew an unmanned aerial drone across a river while carrying a 6.6-pound package as part of a test; UPS has also said it's researching delivery drones. Such efforts could have wide-reaching effects on how quickly and easily packages are delivered, especially in places that are potentially dangerous or out of reach for humans. However Smith — a longtime drone proponent — knocked the recent coverage of the idea being an easy or simple transition, referring to it as "mythology," and saying traditional infrastructure for moving packages still has legs.