The next time you see a drone buzzing overhead, try to keep an open mind about these goofy, oversized R/C planes. Some are actually doing incredible work.
I am admittedly one of those most likely to throw an eye-roll at drones, or to laugh at their demise in a raptor’s claws, but a few companies, like the German Wingcopter, have found an awesome use for them: delivering vaccines to remote areas that are otherwise very hard to access.
And Wingcopter has secured more funding as they ramp up operations for COVID19 vaccine distribution in Africa and Southeast Asia, per Reuters.
Wingcopter’s CEO, Tom Plümmer, told Reuters: “COVID is now making it necessary to build it out fast, but once it’s there we will have a new type of infrastructure that could carry things like medication, blood, lab samples and even normal daily goods.”
The company has raised $US22 ($29) million and they’re putting those funds towards increasing production.
Plümmer went on to specify to Reuters that the drones, dubbed the 178 Heavy Lift, “can transport about 2,500 vaccine doses a day.” As if that weren’t enough, the company is seeking partners to build a new drone that could carry up to 1,000 doses per flight, Plümmer said.
Wingcopter says that its drones are well adapted to the task of vaccine delivery, a benefit of the company’s innovative tech, which it describes as follows:
The core innovation behind the company’s highly efficient electric delivery drones is the patented tilt-rotor mechanism, which enables a seamless transition between two drone modes within seconds: multicopter for vertical take-off and landing and fixed-wing for fast and quiet long-range forward flight. Thanks to a proprietary winch mechanism the drones can safely and accurately lower the cargo at the point of destination without the need for any landing infrastructure.
Here’s what that looks like in practice, though you’ll have to imagine it with a vaccine payload and a less colourful livery:
The Wingcopter drones can fly up to 120 kilometers and depending on the payload can reach speeds up to 150 km/h.
The company says the drones can reduce medical deliveries from days and hours to just minutes in some cases, and they’re not just tooting their own horn here. The delivery systems have already been tested and proved in places such as Malawi and Vanuatu, among others.
And as much as I love a good drone action shot from motorsport, I think this is the coolest use for these robotic aircraft.