Wingcopter to Fly Deliveries for Merck

Wingcopter is teaming up with Merck to pilot a drone-delivery program.

In partnership with the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, the German UAV startup and the Big Pharma giant will create a program to transport pigment samples from a Merck site in Gernsheim, Germany to a lab in Darmstadt – a distance of 15.5 miles. The drone transport will replace a slower, more expensive van-delivery program.

The goal of the pilot program is to "evaluate this shipment solution for inter-site use and develop it into a long-term business model, based on factors such as time savings, sustainability, cost, and flexibility," according to a press release.

Operating in 10 countries, Wingcopter develops and produces autonomous delivery drones for social and civilian applications, fulfilling the company's mission of "Technology with a Purpose."

Wingcopter will plan and execute the delivery operation and coordinate regarding aviation legal issues. A Wingcopter spokesperson notes:

"Wingcopter was selected for the project since its drones have all the qualities needed for air freight transport between two or more facilities: They can take off and land vertically on the smallest of spaces, but thanks to their swivel-rotor mechanism they can also cover longer distances much more efficiently, quickly and quietly than conventional multicopters."

"This project will demonstrate the sustainability of drone flights for commercial purposes in public airspace in all three dimensions of sustainable development: environmental, economic and social. We expect a high level of scalability and transferability to other industries," Prof. Kai-Oliver Schocke said.

Based on the data obtained during the delivery flights and investigation of the end-to-end processes, the project partners will present a final report in March. The report will show under which circumstances the use of drones in site logistics can be economically and ecologically sustainable.

Stefan Nowak, Wingcopter project manager, said:

"We know of no other project in the world where goods are delivered over such a distance and out of sight by drone in a metropolitan region – across electricity and train routes, motorways and state roads as well as production infrastructure. With today's flight, the project marks a milestone in the history of unmanned aviation and intermodal logistics. Moreover, the project serves as a role model for similar projects throughout the world in terms of the aviation regulatory affairs and coordination effort involved.

Last year, Wingcopter snagged multi-million-dollar seed investment from Singaporean VC Corecam Capital Partners. Company officials say they will use the seed money to expand its 35-member team and to enhance future product development.

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