German Airways and drone provider, Wingcopter, have signed a letter of intent (LoI) aimed at jointly operating drones. According to the document, German Airways parent, Zeitfracht Group,
will initially purchase 17 drones from the producer, followed by 115 additional specimens. The drones are to be deployed from the second half of 2024 - initially offshore, for example, for the
delivery of spare parts to wind farms in the Baltic Sea.
Zeitfracht Group, the owner of German Airways, acquired the maritime company, OPUS Marine, four years ago, which operates 8 supply vessels. These are used to provide spare parts and components to the growing number of wind parks erected offshore in German territorial waters. In the future, a part of these supply missions will be carried out by means of Wingcopter delivery drones. They are able to land with pinpoint accuracy on a moving ship, although their operation will be technologically demanding, state both companies. The drones are capable of carrying a payload of up to five kilograms and - depending on the weight of the load - can cover distances of between 75 and 110 kilometers.
Able to withstand harsh weather conditions
The Zeitfracht management selected the Wingcopter production series 198 because of its extraordinary wind and weather resistance abilities, and incredible payload-to-range ratio; features that are of essential importance when operating in a maritime environment, facing frequently changing weather conditions. The unmanned aerial vehicles take off vertically, without requiring additional infrastructure, and then move forward horizontally in flight like normal aircraft. Since they are electrically powered, Wingcopter’s drones do not emit greenhouse gases and instead contribute to zero-emission logistics.
Rostock on way to becoming a drone center
In phase one, the drones will take off from Rostock Airport located near the Baltic Sea, which the Zeitfracht Group took over in January. According to the company, the location offers an ideal ambient for extended test flights as well as premises for measurements, technical adjustments, and the evaluation of the data collected during operations.
Since German Airways possesses an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), the company fulfills essential requirements to operate delivery drones provided by its new partner, Wingcopter. In addition, German Airways is also IOSA certified and thus operates according to the applicable IATA rules.
While signing the LOI, Zeitfracht CEO, Wolfram Simon-Schröter stated: “We believe the time is now ripe for the commercial use of drones, for example, for the delivery of spare parts to offshore wind farms. With German Airways, our Rostock Airport, and the experience of our shipping company, OPUS, in delivery operations on the high seas, together with Wingcopter, we have the ideal prerequisites to drive this technology a huge step forward.”
Tom Plümmer, Co-Founder and CEO of Wingcopter, added: “With the planned supply flights to ships and offshore wind farms, we will tap into a new, fast-growing field of application for which the Wingcopter 198 is ideally suited, thanks to its high efficiency even in extreme weather conditions. In addition, the test site and the close cooperation offer the opportunity to jointly develop further promising business areas.”
Tapping into the Japanese market
Prior to the Zeitfracht deal, Wingcopter had inked a strategic partnership agreement with Japanese company, ITOCHU. The contract foresees that ITOCHU will join Wingcopter’s Authorized Partnership Program (WAPP), and act as a dedicated distributor and lessor for the Wingcopter 198, Wingcopter’s new eVTOL delivery drone, in Japan. Further to this, the Japanese conglomerate also decided to make a strategic investment in Wingcopter. The companies did not disclose the financial details of the transaction.
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