Wingcopter flies into Kenya
Wingcopter – the German last-mile delivery drone start-up – is fast becoming a household name in Africa.
Having already covered a lot of flying ground on the continent, with operations in Tanzania, Malawi and Ethiopia, the electronic Vertical Take-Off and landing drone supplier has just confirmed that it will be flying into Kenya, to partner with Astral Aerial, a local unmanned cargo delivery service; in their bid to offer lasting last mile delivery solutions to remote areas in the country.
“Teaming up with Astral Aerial gives us a strong partner with outstanding knowledge of the local markets and the air cargo industry” said Wingcopter Co-Founder and CEO, Tom Plummer. “Combining this with our leading drone technology opens up huge possibilities in terms of providing rural areas with time-sensitive commodities – hopefully including a COVID-19 vaccine soon. This next exciting partnership allows us to deploy our technology for the benefit of mankind in even more countries – thus coming a little closer to our vision again.”
In expressing his company’s excitement at working with their German counterpart, Astra Aerial’s Chief Operations Officer Geoffrey Nyaga said their latest foray into last mile delivery to remote areas using unmanned aerial vehicles had been inspired firstly by the disadvantageous infrastructure situation most rural areas in Kenya find themselves in.
“Last mile delivery of health and humanitarian cargo to rural areas in Africa is affected by barriers such as land isolation, breakdowns or lack of transport systems and connectivity, lack of secure storage and warehouse facilities, an inefficient distribution process and supply chain resulting in high wastage,” Nyaga said in a webinar on Manufacturing and Supply Chain hosted last week by African Health Business; adding that they also learned from the slow pace of medical delivery in the Democratic Republic of Congo; where victims of the deadly Ebola virus had to wait for as many as ten days for salvation.
Nyaga also revealed that together with their new partners, they will soon be opening hubs in towns and cities around Kenya; which hubs would be located adjacent to emergency medical services suppliers, such as blood banks and warehouses for COVID-19 equipment. From there, operating teams will wait for a call or text from rural-based health workers, with orders on what type of emergency health products they need.
The Wingcopter drone can carry a payload of up to 6kg.
The process of loading up the drone and preparing it for take-off can take as little as five minutes. The Wingcopter can travel for 100km without needing a battery change, and it can top speeds of over 200km per hour. Obviously, having eliminated the red tape associated with airports and the slowness of road transport, the way of the last mile delivery drone becomes attractive. The drone will fly to its delivery point and back to the main hub, in a typical hub-and-spoke operation that the two companies wish to work on.
With drone regulations having finally been gazetted in Kenya, the venture should see a smooth take off. Nyaga also expressed hope for the harmonisation of regional drone laws, so the UAV can be able to work across borders in East Africa. The East African Community’s Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) has already led the trend in this charge, being responsible for airworthiness inspections of aircraft and airport facilities in the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi are in the process merging their aviation laws with the agency.
CASSOA is working towards harmonising the aviation regulations of the six member states, such that a licence acquired in one state should be valid in the five other member states making the EAC.
Concluded Nyaga; “For Africa, innovation is no longer a choice; it has become a necessity; and it is only through manufacturing, innovation and partnerships that we will be able to leap forward and solve our current problems and create a better future for coming generations.”
Astral said it will also be training locals so they understand how drone technology works, and create employment at grassroots level.
An affiliate of Astral Aviation, Astral Aerial Solutions offers drone services to logistics, aerial photography, aerial surveillance reconnaissance, inspections among other industries. The company possesses cargo drones with a payload capability of up to 2000kg, and can travel for 26hours over 1,200km. Their smaller drone family is capable of 8 hours of flight carrying up to 4kg payload.