Wingcopter this week announced a partnership with Continental Drones designed to establish a massive delivery network spanning 49 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. The deal sets the lofty goal of deploying 12,000 of Wingcopter’s 198 drone systems over the course of the next 5 years.
Drone delivery has largely been a non-starter for a number of companies, including Amazon. While others, like Alphabet’s Wing, have seen some success in limited markets, plenty of questions remain around efficacy, congestion and regulation, among others. We’ve long suggested that such technologies might make more sense in remote areas, where traditional infrastructural issues present real barriers for delivery.
Various locales in Africa certainly make sense for such a rollout, with drones potentially offering faster access to important resources, including vaccines, medicines, lab samples and other key medical supplies. The company has already partnered with hospitals in the U.S. and Malawi, and is planning to expand into different delivery categories, such as food.
“With the looming food crisis on the African continent triggered by the war in Ukraine, we see great potential and strong social impact that drone-delivery networks can bring to people in all the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa by getting food to where it is needed most,” CEO Tom Plümmer told TechCrunch. “Especially in remote areas with weak infrastructure and those areas that are additionally affected by droughts and other plagues, Wingcopter’s delivery drones will build an air bridge and provide food from the sky on a winch to exactly where it is needed.”
Wingcopter was founded in 2017 by Plümmer, Jonathan Hesselbarth and Ansgar Kadura — a trio of then-university students. Early last year, the previously bootstrapped company announced a $22 million Series A, led by Silicon Valley VC Xplorer Capital. The startup’s primary offering is the Wingcopter 198, a large fixed-winged drone capable of transporting 13 pounds of payload up to 68 miles. The system can drop three individual packages, making it possible to perform multiple deliveries in a single flight.
The drones are controlled remotely by pilots who can monitor and fly up to 10 systems at once. Emissions are the other big selling point here, with the electric systems offering more efficiency than traditional ground transportation.
“The first fleets of Wingcopter delivery drones will be delivered in Q1 2023. Continental Drones’ parent company, Atlantic Trust Holding, has been present on the African continent for more than 20 years and can count on extensive business experience and intimate knowledge of local challenges,” said Plümmer. “Wingcopter will act as the drone technology provider and support Continental Drones who will be the distributor of Wingcopter‘s delivery drones.”