Electrons in a metal are indistinguishable particles that interact strongly with other electrons and their environment. Isolating and detecting a single flying electron after propagation, in a similar manner to quantum optics experiments with single photons1, 2, is therefore a challenging task. So far only a few experiments have been performed in a high-mobility two-dimensional electron gas in which the electron propagates almost ballistically3, 4, 5. In these previous works, flying electrons were detected by means of the current generated by an ensemble of electrons, and electron correlations were encrypted in the current noise. Here we demonstrate the experimental realization of high-efficiency single-electron source and detector for a single electron propagating isolated from the other electrons through a one-dimensional channel. The moving potential is excited by a surface acoustic wave, which carries the single electron along the one-dimensional channel at a speed of 3 μm ns−1. When this quantum channel is placed between two quantum dots several micrometres apart, a single electron can be transported from one quantum dot to the other with quantum efficiencies of emission and detection of 96% and 92%, respectively. Furthermore, the transfer of the electron can be triggered on a timescale shorter than the coherence time T2* of GaAs spin qubits6. Our work opens new avenues with which to study the teleportation of a single electron spin and the distant interaction between spatially separated qubits in a condensed-matter system.