- UPS will work with the German company Wingcopter to build a new drone fleet.
- The drones will be both swift and robust, built for a time-sensitive delivery.
- Wingcopter drones have been used to carry supplies to remote island areas elsewhere.
UPS is collaborating with the German startup Wingcopter to create a new type of delivery drone to be used in the U.S. and internationally for the increasing commercial drone delivery activities of the logistics business. Wingcopter has already developed an electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with a range of up to 75 miles and a speed of up to 150 miles per hour in conditions including wind speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.
UPS commercial drone delivery program:
Wingcopter will work closely with UPS’ Flight Forward subsidiary, the dedicated drone delivery device that UPS established last July to house its commercial drone delivery program. In October, Flight Forward obtained the permission of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to efficiently run a full-size “drone airline” on a scale for the purpose of distributing the kit.
Wingcopter has also shown how its drones could work in commercial environments, including during a demonstration with Merck earlier this year that saw its autonomous eVTOLs deliver small parcels between the different offices of the drugmaker in Darmstadt, Germany. It has used its aircraft to carry essential medical supplies and life-saving devices to places hard to access, including by collaborations with UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations.
This partnership will continue with efforts on behalf of both organizations to certify Wingcopter’s aircraft for use in commercial delivery in the U.S., which will pave the way for the joint production of other types of aircraft that will support a range of needs, including in sectors ranging from healthcare to hospitality to retail and more.
The biggest advantage of Wingcopter is its architecture, which allows it to switch from hovering and vertical lift to low-noise forward flight mode, which is best suited for use in overpopulated areas. It does this by using a tilting rotor configuration, which has the added advantage of making it more stable in extreme weather conditions, including rain and high temperatures.
UPS delivery operations on medical campuses
UPS, having started drone delivery operations on medical campuses, was a reasonable pioneer to advise the White House – rapidly – on how drone delivery could be leveraged to respond to the latest pandemic. With its extensive network of trained and vetted drone pilots, DroneUp was able to respond to a call to help provide the data required, flying for 3 days on the empty campus of St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia. “DroneUp and UPS have delivered the most extensive packages ever made,” says Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of flights – this was an exhaustive exercise. We took a 55-acre college campus, we made it a community, and by the end of the day we had two deliveries every three minutes.”
Thousands of data points generated contributed to the team’s assessment of issues such as safe operational capabilities; airspace de-conflict and operator safety policies needed to maximize capacity; the processes, policies, and training needed; and proposed policy changes that would further facilitate drone delivery.
UPS, best known in the U.S. for its visible-everywhere brown delivery vehicles, made history on Monday for the “First Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-sanctioned use of drones for routine revenue flights involving the transport of a product under a contract delivery agreement.”
According to the firm, Monday’s flight was the No. 1 trip for a new logistics service designed to transport medical samples via unmanned drones. It is launched by UPS in cooperation with Matternet, a pioneer in autonomous drone technology. The program is being held at WakeMed’s main hospital and campus in Raleigh, NC, metropolitan area, under the supervision of the FAA and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The groundbreaking flight marked the first of a series of scheduled regular revenue flights on campus.
“Drone transportation will improve the delivery speed at a lower cost, improve access to care and create healthier communities,” said Donald Gintzig, President & CEO of WakeMed. “WakeMed is committed to technology and we believe that drone research has the power to achieve truly revolutionary improvements in health and healthcare delivery.”
We’ve shown through current commercial drone distribution projects that successful drone delivery of medical supplies is quicker than traditional land transportation,” said Scott Price, UPS Chief Strategy Officer, and Transition Officer. “Drones offer a low-touch option for the delivery of laboratory specimens and medical products that could have a significant impact on an emergency response request.”
U.S./Swiss reveal collaboration
Collaboration between countries and their respective governing bodies would entail the achievement of global harmonization. The FAA and the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) jointly announced an agreement on the first day of the Symposium to harmonize domestic and international safety requirements for UAS, setting the tone for the form of collective effort needed to achieve global harmonization.
The agreement builds on efforts by the United States and Switzerland to ensure that this fast-growing, large aviation segment is securely, efficiently, and smoothly implemented around the globe.
“UAS activities are now globally accepted as a vital aviation sector,” says Merkle. “This U.S./Swiss agreement keeps moving forward towards the safe, efficient, and globally harmonized integration of these vehicles into the world’s airspace.”
Under the Declaration of Intent (DOI), participants plan to work together on issues of common concern and benefit to the UAS. The primary objectives of the DOI are to “provide opportunities to engage in research and development; to exchange ideas, staff, and information; to coordinate with other government entities and stakeholders;
and to work together on other initiatives and projects assessed to be of mutual immense benefit in relation to UAS operations.”
The Swiss FOCA Innovation and Digitalization Unit is the primary authority and contact point designated by the Swiss Confederation under this Agreement to develop regulations covering the activities of the UAS, including credential and supervision of drone designers, manufacturers, and operators. The Swiss leader in UAS efforts, FOCA, is the designated authority responsible for facilitating the integration of drones into Swiss airspace. FOCA shall also promote. Technology and operations and maintenance research in the field and the development of all matters relating to these aircraft.
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