Amidst fears of tech recession, Wingcopter investment offers hope for drone deliveries

2023 has not been good for the tech industry with myriad layoffs, reductions in funding and spending cutbacks. But here’s one bright spot for the tech industry, a multi-million dollar Wingcopter investment.

The money comes from European Investment Bank (EIB), which is handing over €40 million in what’s called a ‘quasi-equity investment’ into Wingcopter. EIB is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States, designed to make long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.  More specifically, this EIB investment is backed by the European Commission’s InvestEU program under its sustainable infrastructure window. 

The money is intended to scale up Wingcopter’s electric delivery drones and logistics services particularly in hard-to-reach rural areas. And while Wingcopter intends to operate globally, the €40 million is set to be crucial as the company makes a big growth move this summer in an expansion within Germany.

Wingcopter is one of the biggest makers of electrically-powered delivery drones. Though there is certainly debate of whether or not drones are truly more environmentally-friendly, many firmly believe that electric delivery drones like Wingcopter’s are a far superior form of environmentally-friendly technology. That’s especially more true when comparing using electric cargo drones to deliver urgently needed goods as opposed to carbon- intensive modes of transport such as motorcycles, vans and helicopters,

Where Wingcopter has been — and where it’s headed (with big news this summer)

Wingcopter has been around since 2017, when it was founded in the German state of Hesse. Since then, it has participated in several small-scale commercial and humanitarian projects including a joint project with UNICEF on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to deliver  medicines and medical supplies to rural communities in hard-to-reach areas in Malawi. It’s also partnered with package delivery giant UPS).

In June 2020, Wingcopter was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum and also was named a finalist in the third annual AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards 2020.

Now, Wingcopter has roughly 150 employees.

This year, German-based Wingcopter is staying a bit closer to home. The Wingcopter 198 is set to launch  for the first time in Germany this summer as part of a pilot project in southern Hesse. That project will test the potential of on-demand transport of groceries and other consumer goods with a goal to improve local supply in rural German communities through a sustainable delivery service. That project will be done in tandem with the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport.

Wingcopter investment also set to level up Wingcopter 198 model

More rural deliveries isn’t all that’s on the Wingcopter docket. The company also said the EIB’s €40 million investment will help the company ramp up production of its flagship Wingcopter 198 model.

The Wingcopter drone — like most other delivery drones including that from Google-sister Wing — can take off and land vertically (removing the need for an airplane-like runway) but then transforming into a plane style that allows it to fly quickly and efficiently over long distances. What sets Wingcopter’s design apart is a  patented tilt-rotor mechanism, as well as proprietary software algorithms.

The drones can carry up to 5 kg and cover distances of up to 100 km, and run entirely on battery power. The company said it is also researching a green hydrogen energy system to power Wingcopter’s drones for even longer flight times.

The Wingcopter 198 holds a rare Federal Aviation Administration certification for its Wingcopter 198, which marks a critical leap in the U.S. Type Certification Process of the company’s flagship aircraft. That occurred in May 2022, when the FAA issued the company a Special Class Airworthiness Criteria under title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), § 21.17(b).

Only a handful of other companies to date (including Wing and Zipline) hold this type of certification, which allows Wingcopter to “fly conventional routes through airspace and over populated areas, ultimately providing the basis for scaling commercial drone delivery operations across the U.S.”

Image courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

How this latest Wingcopter investment fits in

By some metrics, 2022 was not been kind to drone companies on the investment front. Last year was the first year since 2017 that the amount of investor funding poured into the drone industry did not break the record from the year prior, according to data from Drone Industry Insights. That said, the drone industry still received a collective $4.8 billion in funding in 2022, which is still more than the total money poured into drones in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined.

Wingcopter in January 2021 announced that it had secured $22 million in Series A funding. The financing round was led by Silicon Valley-based Xplorer Capital, which has been a key investor in many autonomous technologies including other major drone delivery company Zipline, A year later, it had raised up to $42 million in a Series A extension round.

According to Crunchbase, Wingcopter has raised $110 in funding to-date.

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