German startup Wingcopter has unveiled an autonomous delivery drone that can deliver up to three packages to multiple locations during a single flight.
Such a design could have a dramatic impact on the efficiency of delivery drones, with most of the current designs only able to carry one package per flight.
Wingcopter has been creating unmanned flying machines since 2017, and its Wingcopter 198 aircraft incorporates much of what the startup has learned over the last four years.
The Wingcopter 198 delivery drone is an all-electric, vertical-take-off-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft with a 198 cm wingspan. It’s capable of carrying payloads of up to 13 pounds (6 kg) on trips of up to 47 miles (75 km) on a single battery charge, or up to 68 miles (110 km) with smaller payloads.
The drone can zip between its delivery destinations real fast, too, thanks to its top speed of 93 mph (150 kph).
Wingcopter claims that its autonomous aircraft would be ideal for a range of delivery scenarios, “especially in rural areas or hard-to-reach places such as islands, mountainous areas, or offshore platforms and ships.”
Deliveries are made by lowering packages down on a tether, a process that should save time as it eliminates the need for the drone to locate a landing spot before touching down.
Notably, Wingcopter says that its new control station software allows for a single human operator to oversee a fleet of up to 10 Wingcopter 198 drones from anywhere in the world.
Tom Plümmer, CEO of Wingcopter, describes the Wingcopter 198 as “a game-changer for drone-based deliveries,” adding that the aircraft can be “perfectly utilized as a fleet solution in delivery networks to create new opportunities everywhere.”
The startup says its Wingcopter 198 delivery drone has been designed and developed according to aviation safety standards and is currently undergoing a certification process with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). While the FAA has been gradually loosening the rules around commercial drone delivery, the regulations are still too tight to allow for a large-scale rollout of such services.
Wingcopter, which has 120 employees and picked up $22 million in funding earlier this year, is now accepting refundable deposits of 1,000 euros (about $1,200) for companies interested in having early access to its triple-drop delivery drone, though it’s yet to reveal the drone’s total cost.
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