We might be seeing more drones delivering life-saving medical supplies as German manufacturer Wingcopter announced today that it landed “seven-digit” financing from Singapore-based Corecam Capital Partners. The exact amount secured was not revealed.
WHAT THEY DO
Since its founding in 2017, the Darmstadt-based startup’s eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) drones have been used in projects delivering medicines, vaccines, blood and lab samples over long distances to hard to reach areas.
Last year, it was one of two companies awarded commercial contracts by the Vanuatu government to trial the delivery of vaccine supplies to Vanuatu’s remote island communities. Another project in Tanzania saw them work with DHL and German development agency GIZ to test the delivery of medicines to Ukerewe Island, Lake Victoria, over a six-month period.
According to Wingcopter, results from both trials showed significant reductions in the time patients needed to wait to receive the supplies.
WHAT IT’S FOR
With clients in 10 countries, the company said it would use the new funds to hire more specialists and accelerate the development of the next Wingcopter generation. They are now understood to be planning the trial of a new delivery application in the US.
“The financing will help to significantly speed up our growth, meet the already high domestic and international demand and focus on the most promising markets with regards to global expansion,” said chief executive Tom Plümmer.
THE LARGER TREND
Drone deliveries have for a while been expected to transform the way we get access to certain medical supplies. In Rwanda, the government teamed up with delivery service Zipline in 2016 in an initiative that allows clinicians in remote areas to text orders that are then packed at a distribution centre and sent in drones flying at 100 km/h.
However, a suite of regulatory obstacles, and not only, are said to be standing in the way of companies wanting to secure a foothold in the field. In the UK, last year, a report from innovation foundation Nesta found that the use of drones for medical deliveries between London hospitals could lead to improvements in patient care, as well as cost reductions. But the researchers pointed to challenges including the need to have “more sophisticated communications systems” in place, as well as to manage complex spaces.
ON THE RECORD
Commenting on today’s announcement, Martin Lechner, managing partner of Corecam Capital Partners, said: “The investment in Wingcopter is the ideal addition to our existing portfolio in the fast-growing drone technology market. Their unique tilt-rotor mechanism as well as the strong global patent protection and the interest of blue-chip customers were decisive for us.”
Editor's note, 13 December: An update has been made regarding the startup's founding date.