The drone producer and operator of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has won prestigious prizes awarded by the Rwandan government. The recent challenge was aimed at finding the most suitable drone supplier, who could convincingly demonstrate the potential of autonomous drone deliveries to serve isolated communities and rural areas across Africa.
Great joy for the Wingcopter team: It got a big hand from Rwandan officials, including President Paul Kagame, and the many spectators of the event, following the superb performance of their drones at Lake Kivu last February. The joy was even greater last week as the committee informed the German company that the organizing committee of the ‘Lake Kivu Challenge’ had declared the drone provider the winner in the contested category “Emergency Delivery.” In addition, the UAV operator was awarded a special prize for its safety precautions, funded with 74,000 euros as token of appreciation which led to even more applause from the participants.
Rwanda becomes trail blazer for drones
The award ceremonies concluded the ‘African Drone Forum 2020’, which took place in February and was, for the very first time, hosted by Rwanda. The worldwide interest was enormous, given that as many as 92 drone companies from 35 countries applied for the challenge – a record attendance for such an event. Finally, ten companies were picked by jurors and invited to demonstrate their capabilities in real-world scenarios at Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda. Industry experts believe that a main reason explaining the high interest of drone firms demonstrating the abilities of their products in the Lake Kivu Challenge, was a masterplan tabled by the Rwandan government aimed at becoming an African drone center and a leader in the UAV industry. Therefore, the challenge was seen as a showcase, eventually opening doors to a large future market.
Efficient and time saving aerial transports
The task was to send a drone loaded with an emergency package from the Rwandan mainland to Bugarura Island in Lake Kivu, located 20 kilometers off the coast. There the consignment had to be dropped off safely at a specified location, while the UAV had to fly back autonomously to the starting point immediately afterwards.
The Wingcopter drones needed only 12 minutes for the flight to the destination, a drastic reduction compared to the at least 50 minutes needed by a boat for the same distance. “No landing or human interaction was required at the handover point, as the package was lowered with the help of an innovative winch mechanism,” the company illustrates.
“We strongly believe that our drones can help overcome existing infrastructural problems and thus generate significant social and economic benefits in Africa and elsewhere," Tom Pluemmer, CEO and co-founder of Wingcopter, declared on the occasion.
Selina Herzog, Project Manager at the drone provider added: “Wingcopter aims to build long-term relationships with local governments and business partners as well as donor organizations throughout Africa. Through these partnerships, we will promote the exchange of knowledge and training of local workers, enabling our partners to set up their own scalable projects.”
The company’s current lead over its competitors, demonstrated again at the Rwandan challenge, is based on its electrically powered and patented tiltrotor. It allows the smooth combination of two modes: to take off and land vertically and – thanks to the fixed wings – to switch into forward flight at a given altitude.
At the African Drone Forum, Wingcopter managers signed a first MoU with a Rwandan start-up, with more likely to follow since other local players engaged in drone technology have shown high interest, the company says.
Only recently, Darmstadt, Germany-based Wingcopter partnered with UPS Flight Forward to jointly develop the next generation of parcel drones aimed at offering aerial delivery services in populated areas and pioneering new use-cases.
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