Drone manufacturer Wingcopter and UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF) have signed an agreement to jointly develop a new generation of package delivery drones for use cases in the U.S. and beyond. Their prime aim is to earn regulatory certification by the U.S. authorities for their future unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
As proof of their cooperation, both companies have already placed images of their future drone on the world wide web, displaying the brown and yellow signal colors of UPS on the wingtips and the
logo of the U.S. parcel giant on the Wingcopter’s tail unit. When the first commercial flight will take off is not a matter of technical issues, because the drones are basically available, but
depends on the approval process by the authorities.
Building a multiple drone fleet for different applications
UPS Flight Forward has decided to choose the German drone pioneer as industrial partner for its advanced unmanned aircraft technology and its track record in delivering a variety of goods over long distances in multiple international settings. In addition to obtaining official approval, both companies aim at building a diverse fleet of drones with varying capabilities to meet even more potential customer needs.
“Drone delivery is not a one-size-fits-all operation,” Bala Ganesh, VP of UPS Advanced Technology Group stated. “Our collaboration with Wingcopter helps pave the way for us to start drone delivery service in new use-cases.” The manager added to this that UPS Flight Forward is building a network of technology partners to broaden its capability to serve customers and extend the company’s competencies in drone applications.
Together with partner UPS, “we aspire to extend the speed and reach of package delivery,” Tom Pluemmer, Wingcopter CEO and co-founder explained. “Our vision has always been to leverage technology to improve the lives of people around the world, and the strategic relationship with UPS will further accelerate our growth and global expansion, strengthening our role as an industry leader in drone technology.”
Unique technical features
In a release, Wingcopter stresses that their electrically powered UAVs have repeatedly proven excellent operational capabilities. The core drone innovation is the seamless transition of two technical modes: the patented tiltrotor allowing for vertical-takeoff and landing, and the fixed wing enabling low-noise forward flights. Therefore, the combination of hovering and long-distance operations is the company’s USP. According to the manufacturer, the drones can carry packages over a distance of 120 km (75 miles) at a record speed of 240 km/h (150 mph). The UAVs have proven remarkable flight characteristics even in strong winds of up to 70 km/h (44 mph) as evidenced in various missions performed in different environments.
Successful field trials
Wingcopter emphasizes that the superior performance of their aerial vehicles is proven by a number of so called ‘beyond visual line of sight projects’ (BVLOS) spanning from commercial factory-to-factory deliveries to life-saving humanitarian projects and emergency medical supply. Examples are drone flights supplying insulin to patients living on a remote Irish island that is frequently cut off from the mainland due to poor weather conditions. On the South Sea island of Vanuatu, the start-up successfully set up on-demand vaccines flights, delivering urgently needed serums to local health centers.
As for UPSFF, last year the company began operating commercial drone delivery flights in the UPS network, starting with medical delivery services in Raleigh, N.C. UPSFF later announced plans to establish drone delivery services on several healthcare campuses and is eager to expand the use of drones to deliver retail, prescriptions and medical products in residential areas.
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