Wingcopter, Germany’s drone delivery startup, raises another $44M from the EIB


Wingcopter HQ exterior
Image Credits: Wingcopter

Wingcopter, a startup out of Germany that has made a name for itself in the world of delivery drones used primarily for delivery of medicine and other goods to remote areas, has picked up some more financing to expand its business. The European Investment Bank is putting €40 million (close to $44 million) into the startup, funding that it will use in two areas: further developing its hardware line; and to kick off a new business in logistics and delivery services, anchored by a fleet of its drones.

The funding is being described as “quasi-equity” — and it’s a common approach taken by the EIB (other examples here and here) that involves one portion of the funding coming in as equity and the rest as a venture loan. Tom Plümmer, Wingcopter’s CEO and co-founder, would not disclose the proportions of either in an interview. He said the plan is to raise a significant Series B next year — or whenever the markets turn around.

For now, this latest infusion brings the total raised by Wingcopter to €100 million, which has also been backed in two previous fundraises by a mix of strategic and financial backers such as the retail giant REWE, Xplorer Capital, Japan’s ITOCHU and Expa, the investment firm started by Garrett Camp of Uber.

And it more than doubles Wingcopter’s previous valuation — a figure that it is not disclosing, either. But if you consider that its bigger U.S. counterpart Zipline last month raised $330 million at a valuation of $4.2 billion, Wingcopter clearly sees the opportunity in the market — and given it has raised only around one-tenth the amount overall, where it likely is right now.

Image Credits: Wingcopter

Wingcopter’s raise is coming at a key moment in the wider vertical take-off and landing space overall. In addition to Zipline’s raise, just a week ago, the VTOL business Lilium, which is developing an air taxi business, disclosed that it was raising another $250 million, with $100 million committed so far from Tencent. The company is publicly listed on NasdaqGS and its stock has been floundering and got a tiny bump from the news.

Indeed, in the more dicey financial waters of today, companies like Wingcopter, Zipline and others in the space, like Flytrex, have something that the air taxi businesses do not: active deployments, albeit small ones. The company has been working with UNICEF in Malawi to help it deliver medicines to hard-to-reach areas, and the plan is to expand that service to more geographies and in more partnerships.

Wingcopter, like Zipline, has focused most of its efforts on the emerging region of Africa, and on very specific use cases.

While the company is still awaiting regulatory clearance to start pilots, and eventually services, in Europe, Plümmer said he was approached by the German government to see if Wingcopter’s drones could help form part of the fleet of drones being sent to Ukraine to help with its defense against Russia.

Wingcopter refused: The company, he said, is committed to its drones never being used in combat situations. That won’t rule out, however, potentially using them at some point to deliver goods when the fighting ceases and Ukraine becomes more focused on reconstruction.

In the meantime, the plan will be to expand business development into other emerging regions alongside Africa, including Asia and Latin America. And that is where the services element comes into the picture. To be clear, Wingcopter will continue to develop and sell drones to individual organizations as it has done up to now. In the wings is a hydrogen-powered model that will, Plümmer said, extend the range of its aircraft by five times compared to models that currently run on batteries. “We will do Frankfurt to Berlin on one charge,” he said.

But more realistically, the unit cost of Wingcopter’s drones continues to be typically too high for the kinds of organizations that might be the most likely to use them. There is more economy of scale that’s likely to kick in — today there are only a relative handful of these devices in the market, but a deal was announced last year to deploy 12,000 for a bigger deployment in Africa over the next five years — but even so, that is why the startup will also be looking at ways of providing services on top of fleets that it will lease out instead. (Wingcopter does not disclose prices on its site, but just the deposit to order one is upwards of €1,000.) 

Currently, Wingcopter, in working with UNICEF, uses a mixture of its own proprietary software on its own devices alongside ERP software from third parties like SAP. But the plan is to build its own logistics and delivery back end to manage this service and work with its fleet, and any other device that it might make sense to use for other legs of a delivery.

“We will integrate our existing drone software into a logistics system that we will design, and we will track the orders,” he said. “This is partly why Garrett [Camp] was interested in us. But yes, as a logistics provider we’ll need to be more platform agnostic and open. We want to build the best logistics service so we are looking at a combination of air and ground vehicles and we are open for more partnerships than we would have been as just a drone company.”

Part of the EIB’s mandate is to finance promising startups out of Europe to push forward the region’s technology industry, but another part is to invest in projects that further the region’s ecological mandates, which is the case here, since the use of drones not only reduces the amount of traffic and emissions from delivery vehicles, but also furthers the work being done to build more clean energy systems, as is the case with Wingcopter’s hydrogen-powered model that is currently in development.

“Europe is currently the global leader in cleantech, and we must work hard to maintain this lead. Backing European cleantech pioneers with global reach like Wingcopter is central to our mission,” said EIB VP Ambroise Fayolle, who oversees Germany, in a statement. “Electric cargo drones are an important vertical segment for a future of sustainable transport and logistics. This investment underlines our commitment to supporting entrepreneurs growing and building advanced green technology businesses in the European Union, strengthening our technological competitiveness, creating highly skilled jobs and opening up new markets, while preserving nature. We are proud to be supporting this European success story.”

More TechCrunch

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

6 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?