UAV startup Wingcopter is flying high this week after being named one of nine winners of Germany’s top global hackathon to kick-start humanitarian drone delivery.
The autonomous delivery drone manufacturer partnered with UNICEF and the African Drone and Data Academy to develop a concept to deploy humanitarian drone delivery services. The goal will be to improve health supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The group will receive up to $3.6 million to make the plan a reality.
The brainchild of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, #SmartDevelopmentHack solicited “innovative digital solutions to tackle the challenges caused by the coronavirus outbreak in low-and-middle-income countries.”
The concept would see the development of a locally operated humanitarian drone delivery network in Malawi. Tasked with supporting community healthcare systems, the delivery drones would provide on-demand access to medical supplies such as coronavirus test kits and future vaccines.
In addition, the program, will launch two training programs to teach 160 Malawi children how to build, operate and maintain drones, as well as data-analytics training.
“Wingcopter’s long-term strategy involves developing a sustainable education platform for youth to enable them to participate in the rapidly growing drone market, offering new job and income opportunities and ultimately improving their quality of life,” Wingcopter CEO Tom Plümmer said.
“By providing both theoretical and practical training on our drones, we will help young people to enter the industrial drone sector faster and better equipped. This concept is fully in line with our vision and we are happy that the award recognizes and supports this approach.”
Earlier this year, Wingcopter won first place in the Emergency Delivery category at the World Bank-sponsored Lake Kivu Challenge in Rwanda.
In March, the company announced a collaboration with UPS Flight Forward to develop a next-generation delivery drone solution for packages. The duo will next seek regulatory certification for a Wingcopter unmanned aircraft to make commercial delivery flights in the United States.
In addition to the UPSFF partnership, Wingcopter is also working on a drone-delivery program with pharma giant Merck. The pilot program will transport pigment samples from a Merck site in Gernsheim, Germany to a lab in Darmstadt – a distance of 15.5 miles. In September, Wingcopter worked with Researchers at NUI Galway, Ireland to complete the world’s first BVLOS delivery of prescription medication and blood samples for diabetes care.