Wingcopter drones to deliver off shore
Berlin, Weiterstadt, Cologne/Bonn, GERMANY – Having long been appreciated for the unmanned autonomous capabilities of its small cargo drones in lands foreign, Germany drone maker Wingcopter has found a way home.
This after signing a deal with compatriot logistics and aviation holding Zeitfracht Group and its subsidiary German Airways, which will see the two among the first companies worldwide to commercially deploy drones in logistics.
“In a joint letter of intent with the German manufacturer Wingcopter, the companies have agreed to purchase seventeen Wingcopter 198 delivery drones and acquire options to order an additional 115 drones in two further tranches by the end of 2023,” said Wingcopter in a statement.
“The aircraft are to be deployed from the second half of 2024 – initially offshore, for example for the delivery of spare parts to wind farms.”
Already boasting of experience in logistics and trade, Zeitfracht will need the drones to travel offshore to the ships operated by OPUS Marine, its shipping subsidiary, as well as to its wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean.
As the delivery drones must be able to land with pinpoint accuracy on a moving ship, their use will be technically demanding. German Airways and Wingcopter will work closely together on the development of this feature.
Said Tom Plümmer, co-founder and CEO of Wingcopter; “We are very pleased to have won Zeitfracht as a partner with extraordinary experience in the logistics and aviation sector.
“With the planned supply flights to ships and offshore wind farms, we will tap into a new, fast-growing field of application for which the Wingcopter 198 is ideally suited thanks to its high efficiency, even in extreme weather conditions. In addition, the test site and the close cooperation offer the opportunity to jointly develop further promising business areas,”
The Wingcopters will take off from Rostock Airport, which has also been part of the Zeitfracht Group since the beginning of the year and offers the Wingcopter development team an ideal environment for extended test flights as well as premises for measurements and the evaluation of the data collected in the process.
Wingcopters can carry a payload of up to five kilograms and – depending on the payload – can cover distances between 75 and 110 kilometres. The aircraft were selected by German Airways because of their extraordinary wind- and weather resistance and their globally leading payload-to-range ratio.
The drones take off vertically, without requiring additional infrastructure, and then move forward horizontally in flight like a normal aircraft. Thanks to their purely electric propulsion, Wingcopter delivery drones also contribute to zero-emission logistics.
The Wingcopter drones made their name delivering emergency medical supplies in Africa and Latin America since 2016, where they worked with both private and government partners in revolutionising the delivery of medicines from days to a matter of just minutes.
The company is now a household name in unmanned delivery circles in Malawi, Japan and the USA.
However, all these deliveries have been on solid land with none involving a drone having to land on a moving ship. It would be interesting to see how the Wingcopter fare on this mission; just as much as it is a test case for the widespread use of small cargo drones by logistics companies.
Zeitfracht CEO Wolfram Simon-Schröter is equally interested in seeing how this goes.
“At the Zeitfracht Group, we are very creative and always interested in using new technologies in a market-leading way,” he said.
“We believe the time is now ripe for the commercial use of drones; for example, for the delivery of spare parts to offshore wind farms. With German Airways, our Rostock Airport and the experience of our shipping company OPUS in delivery operations on the high seas, together with Wingcopter we have the ideal prerequisites to drive this technology a huge step forward.”