Wingcopter takes delivery drones to Japan

Tokyo, JAPAN – Wingcopter are taking their medical delivery drone to the world.

The award winning German eVTOL drone manufacturer and drone services provider has announced that it has partnered with All Nippon Airways (ANA) Holdings, one of the largest airlines in Japan to accelerate the delivery of vital pharmaceuticals and other consumer products using Wingcopter-supplied autonomous birds.

The partnership with ANA – the first such collaboration for Wingcopter in Japan – is a major coup for the drone start-up, which has also just opened up offices in the Asian country in its quest to expand into the Japanese market.

The two aviation companies are already conducting feasibility trials in the country, as they look forward to building a drone delivery network capable of serving needs across Japan. ANA expects the service to transport daily necessities to remote islands as well as medicines and relief goods to disaster zones.

The trials will help ANA determine which aircraft are suited to operate best in each region of the country, evaluating local weather conditions and demand for drone delivery, as it establishes a series of hubs along the transportation network.

“The ongoing tests of Wingcopter aircraft represent a significant step forward in the creation of a viable drone transportation network,” said Tetsuya Kubo, Vice President of ANA overseeing the Digital Design Lab. “We are excited to partner with Wingcopter as we build on the advances and innovation of previous trials to bring drone delivery one step closer to reality. Once fully realized, a functioning drone transportation infrastructure will help improve quality of life in rural areas across Japan.”

Drone delivery was thrown a lifeline in Japan following government’s approval of a bill to amend the aviation law, which includes expanded airspace and fewer regulations for drones. The government is also expected to allow drones to be flown beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight (BVLOS) and in densely populated areas from the next fiscal year.

However, even after drone flying is deregulated, only government-certified aircraft and qualified operators will be allowed to fly drones in populated areas.

ANA sees this as an advantage for airlines; small wonder then that the company is making its hay in preparation for further opening of the Japanese skies to drone technology based on this “Level 4” flying standard.

“Being able to help a global company like ANA open up new business areas and at the same time pursue our mission to save and improve lives, is what we tirelessly work for,” said Tom Plümmer, CEO of Wingcopter. “We are really looking forward to the next steps and the overall partnership with ANA in Japan and beyond.”

The first phase of the current pilot flights took place towards the end of March, with the supervised flight of a Wingcopter aircraft between Fukuejima and Hisakajima in Goto City, Nagasaki Prefecture.

“The flights demonstrated the viability of drone delivery for medical supplies, dramatically reducing patients’ waiting times. In this remote region of Japan, it is difficult to quickly transport medical supplies due to poor infrastructure. This has created problems for public health officials and medical professionals looking to rapidly respond in situations where time is a key factor in treatment.”

ANA started research into the possibilities of venturing into drone transportation in 2016, with the aim of achieving fully commercial drone deliveries by 2022. Drone delivery trials have been conducted in Japan since 2018, and the first flights with Wingcopter aircraft took place in 2019.

Also in 2019, ANA signed an MOU with Zambia Government to conduct similar field tests with drones to improve the delivery of medical supplies in Zambia.

“Because Wingcopter’s fixed-wing eVTOL aircraft are able to fly for longer distances and more rapidly than other unmanned aircraft, they represent a useful alternative to overland delivery in many regions,” the company said in a statement. “The Wingcopter has furthermore proven to be extraordinary resilient to strong wind or inclement weather in projects from stormy Ireland through the hot desert of the United Arab Emirates to freezing-cold arctic Canada.”

You can learn more about Wingcopter’s solutions for medical drone delivery at the Drones and Unmanned Aviation Conference, which you can register for here.


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