The Giumarra Companies announced a joint project with Mountain View, Calif.-based startup Reliable Robotics Corporation to test shipments of produce utilizing autonomous aircraft technology developed by the latter company. The test flight program, created to help address supply chain and delivery challenges within the fresh produce industry, had its successful inaugural flight on Aug. 7.
Credit: Giumarra Companies.
“To call this project ground-breaking is an understatement. We believe autonomous aircraft will transform the future of the fresh produce industry,” said Tim Riley, President of the Giumarra Companies. “This test proved that the technology is viable and will evolve the way we bring products to market by enabling us to deliver fresher, riper fruit anywhere in the country, including remote food deserts, at speeds never before seen.”
An automated Cessna 172 Skyhawk, with an engineer and pilot on board for safety assurance, completed a 200-mile journey from Reedley Municipal Airport to Whiteman Airport in Los Angeles. Giumarra previously announced an air freight shipment, completed in partnership with Reliable Robotics on Aug. 7, to deliver peaches grown in the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California grocery retail via a pilot-operated Cessna 208.
In 2019, Reliable Robotics achieved a fully autonomous flight on the Cessna 172 Skyhawk without an onboard pilot. The company has also demonstrated automated landing of the larger Cessna 208 Caravan and is in the process of certifying its automation platform for use on the Caravan, a popular cargo plane ideal for air shipments of produce.
Credit: Giumarra Companies.
The program serves as compelling proof that automation can improve speed and quality for the entire fresh produce supply chain:
- Utilizing autonomous aircraft, growers and suppliers can quickly and more efficiently deliver farm fresh produce to stores in less time, resulting in less shrink.
- Retailers, particularly those in smaller or more remote markets, can offer consumers fresh produce available at stores within 24-48 hours of being picked.
- Growers can produce varieties optimized for flavor and texture versus long-haul transportation methods.
“Giumarra is a forward-thinking company and we’re proud to partner with them to show how automated cargo flights can greatly improve fresh food distribution,” said Robert Rose, Co-founder and CEO of Reliable Robotics. “We believe autonomous aviation is going to change the way we experience food, for the better.”
Reliable Robotics is currently working with the Federal Aviation Administration on incrementally bringing its autonomous technology to market. The company, founded in 2017 by SpaceX and Tesla veterans, has raised $33.5 million in two funding rounds.