Despite cries of inflation and rapid inflation, the world is still going all in on drone delivery, and investors are looking to make it happen (and turn around a profit themselves). A massive $42 million Wingcopter funding round signals that drone delivery is set to grow big — and soon.
German-based drone delivery manufacturer and service provider Wingcopter announced at the end of June that it had secured $42 million in its latest funding round, which will be used to expand the company’s drone delivery services globally, ramp up production, and accelerate the firm’s R&D efforts. And perhaps most interestingly is that, amid layoffs in other aspects of the tech industry, Wingcopter wants to hire about 80 new employees.
The June 2022 Wingcopter funding round is only a Series A extension round, following a $22 million series A that kicked off at the beginning of 2021. Yet despite the company not having many funding rounds, it has raised a lot of money in a short time. At the end of 2021, Wingcopter received an undisclosed, 7-figure investment from Japanese venture capital company Drone Fund. And now, this latest funding round now triples the company’s total equity raise to more than $60 million to date.
Perhaps most interesting is what players are actually investing in Wincopter. While there are some expected players such as Silicon Valley-based Xplorer Capital (which already invested in another drone delivery company, Zipline, as well as other tech giants like Square, Uber and Alibaba), one standout investor is REWE Group.
REWE Group is one of Germany’s largest grocery retailers, operating about 12,000 stores across Europe. Thus, it’s not unreasonable to expect that Wingcopter — which primarily conducts medical drone deliveries at the moment — might expand to grocery delivery.
How will the Wingcopter funding round money get spent?
Wingcopter shared some pretty solid details on how it intends to spend its fresh infusion of cash. Among its plans:
Expand drone delivery services: Wingcopter already operates all around the world, but it wants to touch even more countries than currently on its map.
For example, Wingcopter has been operating in Malawi since 2019 in transporting various medical goods including emergency medicines (and more recently COVID vaccines) to remote health centers.
Last month, Wingcopter announced even further expansion plans thanks to a partnership with Continental Drones, where the duo will establish drone-based delivery networks with thousands of Wingcopter drones across the African continent. The deal makes Continental Drones a Wingcopter Authorized Partner (WAPP) for all 49 sub-Saharan countries, and — over the next five years — the to plan to deploy 12,000 Wingcopter 198 drones throughout Africa.
Closer to home for most Drone Girl readers comes a partnership with U.S.-based medical service provider Air Methods, where it is running medical drone deliveries in Kansas.
Ramp up production of delivery drones: Wingcopter makes its own delivery drone called the Wingcopter 198, which is an eVTOL delivery drone. That drone is an all-electric, vertical-take-off-and-landing fixed-wing drone.
Right now, its drones are mostly hand-crafted, so to speak. But in the future, Wincopter plans to start partly-automated production work at its Germany production facility.
The company also added that demand is so high that it has already sold most production slots for this and next year.
Accelerate R&D: Wingcopter is seeking to add on new product features. Wingcopter is already seen as an innovator thanks to its patented tilt-rotor mechanism and software algorithms.
Hiring: Wingcopter said it intends to hire 80 new employees across all departments including software engineering, hardware development, flight testing, production and sales, within the next months. That will nearly double the company’s size, which currently has about 120 employees, spread throughout about 20 countries.
Wingcopter’s Airworthiness Criteria
The new capital comes as Wingcopter is already increasing its revenues, the company told Drone Girl.
It also comes at an opportune time as the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved the Airworthiness Criteria for the Wingcopter 198, which marked a critical milestone in the U.S. Type Certification Process of the company’s flagship aircraft. That happened in May, when the FAA issued what’s called a Special Class Airworthiness Criteria under title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), § 21.17(b).
Only a few other companies to date have an FAA-approved airworthiness criteria. And with that golden approval, “Wingcopter will be able to fly conventional routes through airspace and over populated areas, ultimately providing the basis for scaling commercial drone delivery operations across the U.S.,” according to a statement from the company.
“With its disruptive technology and highly motivated team, Wingcopter has the potential to become a frontrunner in the drone delivery space,” said Helmut Jeggle, Founder & Managing Partner of Salvia, which invested in Wingcopter. “In the face of global challenges such as climate change, innovative companies such as Wingcopter are needed to lead an industry like logistics into a sustainable, more efficient future.”
Even still, Wingcopter has competition in the drone delivery space, namely from Google-sister company Wing and California-based Zipline. Also this month, Zipline announced it had received FAA Part 135 air carrier certification to operate in the U.S. That means Zipline is now authorized to complete the longest range on-demand commercial drone deliveries in the U.S.
And don’t forget the company that largely kicked off the drone delivery craze — Amazon. Amazon Prime Air announced this month that it would begin to deliver products via drone to the rural California town of Lockeford, California. Then again, Lockeford residents don’t actually seem to want it. A story from The Washington Post indicates that some neighbors are at least entertaining the idea of shooting them down.
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