Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

UPS and Wingcopter partner on drone deliveries

Steve Rogerson
April 7, 2020

UPS’s drone delivery subsidiary UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF) is working with German drone-maker Wingcopter to develop package delivery drones for use cases in the USA and internationally.
UPS chose Wingcopter, a transport drone pioneer, for its unmanned aircraft technology and its track record in delivering a variety of goods over long distances in multiple international settings.
“Drone delivery is not a one-size-fits-all operation,” said Bala Ganesh, vice president of the UPS Advanced Technology Group. “Our collaboration with Wingcopter helps pave the way for us to start drone delivery service in new use-cases. UPS Flight Forward is building a network of technology partners to broaden our unique capability to serve customers and extend our leadership in drone delivery.”
As part of the collaboration – UPSFF’s first new relationship with a drone manufacturer since its formation – both companies will work towards earning regulatory certification for a Wingcopter unmanned aircraft to make commercial delivery flights in the USA. It also is a critical step towards building a diverse fleet of drones with varying capabilities to meet even more potential user needs.
“We are proud to partner with UPS, a global giant in delivery and logistics,” said Tom Plümmer, Wingcopter chief executive officer and co-founder. “Together we aspire to extend the speed and reach of package delivery. Our vision has always been to leverage technology to improve the lives of people around the world, and the strategic relationship with UPS will further accelerate our growth and global expansion, strengthening our role as an industry leader in drone technology.”
The Wingcopter drones feature vertical take-offs and landings in tight spaces, transitioning to efficient, high-speed horizontal flight, enabling ranges suitable for various uses. These capabilities will allow UPSFF to begin developing methods that, if approved, will go well beyond the healthcare and retail industries to solve long-standing problems for high-tech, industrial manufacturing, hospitality, entertainment and other users.
Wingcopter has already proven its capabilities in numerous beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) projects and for diverse customers around the world, from commercial, factory-to-factory deliveries to life-saving humanitarian projects and emergency medical supply.
For example, Wingcopter delivered insulin to an Irish island in the North Sea that is frequently cut off from the mainland due to bad weather. On the South Sea island of Vanuatu, the start-up, on behalf of the local Ministry of Health and supported by Unicef, set up an on-demand vaccines supply, delivering the urgently needed serums within minutes to multiple health centres.
The core innovation behind the company’s electric-vertical-take-off-and landing drones is the patented tilt-rotor mechanism, which enables as seamless transition between two drone modes: multicopter for hovering and fixed-wing for low-noise forward flight. The aerodynamic Wingcopter aircrafts operate with stability even in harsh weather conditions.
UPSFF last year began operating commercial drone delivery flights in the UPS network, starting with delivery service at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. Since then, the company has delivered thousands of medical samples via drones, supplementing a ground courier service. UPSFF later announced plans to establish drone delivery services on several healthcare campuses and has been exploring the use of drones to deliver retail, prescriptions and medical products in residential settings.
Last September, UPSFF received the US government’s Standard Part 135 certification to operate a drone airline and has also completed drone deliveries under the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules within the FAA’s integration pilot programme.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, UPS serves more than 220 countries and territories worldwide.
With its patented tilt-rotor mechanism, Wingcopter exceeds the range and payload capabilities of commercial multicopter drones. The electrically powered aircrafts take off and land vertically like multicopters in small spaces and fly long distances as efficiently and quickly as fixed-wing aircraft. This enables ranges of up to 120km and a Guinness world record speed of 240km/h. They work in strong winds up to 72km/h or inclement weather.