Drones

Wingcopter prepares 12,000 cargo drones for world's largest deployment

Wingcopter prepares 12,000 cargo drones for world's largest deployment
The Wingcopter 198 flies over an island in the Maldives
The Wingcopter 198 flies over an island in the Maldives
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The Wingcopter 198 flies over an island in the Maldives
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The Wingcopter 198 flies over an island in the Maldives
The 198 can carry and deliver up to three packages per flight, hovering to lower them at drop points
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The 198 can carry and deliver up to three packages per flight, hovering to lower them at drop points
Wingcopter is set to roll out some 12,000 198 drones across Africa over the next five years
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Wingcopter is set to roll out some 12,000 198 drones across Africa over the next five years
The Wingcopter 198 uses an 8-prop VTOL/fast cruise system with two pairs of innovative tilting props
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The Wingcopter 198 uses an 8-prop VTOL/fast cruise system with two pairs of innovative tilting props
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German company Wingcopter has signed a deal to roll out 12,000 of its long-range, triple-drop delivery drones across Africa over the next five years, in what promises to be the largest commercial drone deployment ever attempted.

The Wingcopter 198 is a handsome machine, with a wingspan of 198 cm (78 inches) and the ability to carry up to 6 kilograms (13.2 lb) of cargo. It's a clever design featuring eight propellers mounted on arms extending forward and back from the wings. The outer four props are lift-only, for VTOL purposes, and lock themselves into an aerodynamic configuration during cruise. The inner front two props are capable of tilting 90 degrees forward to provide horizontal thrust, and the inner rear two props also tilt – but primarily simply to fold their props back and get out of the way of the airflow from the front two.

It'll cruise at up to 144 km/h (89 mph) for distances up to 110 km (68 miles), in a broad range of weather conditions. If you've got multiple deliveries to make, it can carry up to three packages per flight, hovering and lowering them to the ground at the drop points. They're designed for fully autonomous operation, or alternatively an operator can use Wingcopter's control station software to monitor or pilot up to 10 drones at once.

The Wingcopter 198 uses an 8-prop VTOL/fast cruise system with two pairs of innovative tilting props
The Wingcopter 198 uses an 8-prop VTOL/fast cruise system with two pairs of innovative tilting props

Wingcopter has recently raised some US$42 million in its latest funding round, bringing its total raise up over US$60 million, and its new deal with Continental Drones in Africa will result in an enormous fleet of Wingcopter drones operating in all 49 sub-Saharan countries all across the continent.

These operations make huge sense in Africa, where insufficient infrastructure is a barrier not only to economic development, but to issues like health care. This fleet of drones will transport goods, medicines, lab samples and vaccines to remote locations quickly and with zero emissions.

“Together with Wingcopter, we are committed to accelerate the development and economic integration of Africa by enabling the creation of drone-based delivery networks across the continent," says Alexander Asiedu, Founder of Continental Drones, in a press release. "With our longstanding business experience on the ground and Wingcopter's best-in-class drone technology, these networks offer a real chance to fuel economic development and help improve the livelihood of millions. African nations show true leadership by implementing this cutting-edge technology for the better of their people and generations to come."

Check out the 198 in the video below.

WINGCOPTER 198 - the world's first triple-drop delivery drone

Source: Wingcopter

View gallery - 4 images
6 comments
6 comments
Jinpa
$40M/12k=$3,333 ea. No service life data; 3-5 years each? ROI from VCs demands fat profit, not just break-even. That requires a lot of trips per year, and overhead of mechs, schedulers and others. At what charge per trip? No package/cargo bay dimensions or weight limits. Range of only 110km seems low for Africa. Li-Ion doesn't like high temperatures. Able to carry three packages doesn't mean that many customers will be available for each trip. Securing three packages better be inside, in bad weather. Expensive cargo will tempt thefts of many kinds. Ambitious, but rollout will be slow.
DJ's "Feed Me Doggie"
This should have been tried first in South America. Kind of the "Amazon Anti-Amazon delivery. (I hope it's successful.)
ljaques
That's a pretty sexy looking beastie, Wingcopter. You seem to have found a very profitable niche there.
mystixa
Just how trains were robbed in the old west I can see groups of people waiting in areas of concentration to knock down drone deliveries for the chance of good salvage and interesting cargo.
SteveMc
@Jinpa : These are designed to be sold in singles or in fleets to private and public operators. Their main purpose is speed of delivery, not single run cost/profit analysis for an ‘Amazon’ delivery, so it’s very probable the customer “will be available”. Weigh up the fuel/vehicle cost/ and manpower/time cost of travelling this distance overland. Quick swap batteries at set locations solve the distance issue and reflective white isn’t going to absorb solar heat, nor ambient at altitude and speed. Best of luck guys, if I had the money I would certainly invest in this. Africa needs a solution and I really hope this is the start of it.
Ralf Biernacki
This drone fleet would be much more useful and efficient if complemented by a network of (solar?) recharging stations, presumably at local villages. This could be put in place gradually, after the drones are already operating.