At Hypermotion 2020, Tom Plümmer, CEO & Co-Founder of Wingcopter, was one of the panellists for the expert talk on ‘Drone boom – rise of the high-flyers’. Drones are set to play a bigger role in future, including in the field of logistics and as a means of reducing road traffic. What are the delivery applications that will arise as a result? In our interview, Plümmer talks about his company's goals and the challenges they face.
Was does Wingcopter do?
We develop and produce unmanned delivery drones, and we have made it our goal to improve people’s lives worldwide with worthwhile commercial and humanitarian applications. Thanks to our unique, patented tilt-rotor mechanism, our drones are able to fly much further – and carry much greater payloads – than commercial multicopter drones. Like multicopters, our electric Wingcopter can take off and land in tight spaces, yet it can also fly long distances with the same efficiency and speed as fixed-wing aircraft. This has allowed us to achieve a range of up to 120 kilometres while setting a Guinness World Record with a speed of 240 kilometres an hour.
What use cases is the company working on?
We are currently focusing on a range of delivery applications, particularly the delivery of medical supplies, as well as of parcels and food. We have already managed to gain a great deal of experience in these areas through projects conducted with our partners. In the health sector there is currently a strong focus on applications that can help combat the coronavirus pandemic (e.g. the delivery of test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) to the people working in healthcare, distributing coronavirus vaccine to isolated areas etc.).
‘We are currently working with our partners at UPS to develop the next generation of delivery drones – drones that will represent a quantum leap forward compared to any system available today.’
Wingcopter can also be used to collect and evaluate geographic and infrastructural data, such as for mapping and inspections.
What are the challenges currently facing the drone market?
Here in Germany, whenever drones are flown outside the visual line of sight it is still necessary to obtain special permits from the German Federal Aviation Office (LBA) and everyone else involved. Naturally it would help if lawmakers were able to define a legal framework for the regular operation of these flights throughout the country. The framework should be similar to aviation standards generally to ensure that there is a high level of safety. We are already actively working with the relevant task forces and certification authorities to help define these regulations.
The second challenge lies in developing a uniform system that allows all manned and unmanned aircraft in any given airspace to communicate – without infringing the privacy of any third parties. We are hopeful that there will soon be technological solutions available that offer satisfactory answers to these challenges.
Last but not least, to take full advantage of the tremendous potential offered by unmanned civil aviation technology, we need widespread public acceptance. This is an area in which the Wingcopter has some clear advantages compared to conventional multicopters. In addition to its attractive appearance, for example, in fixed-wing flight the Wingcopter turns off half of its motors, allowing it to fly much more quietly. As a result, it is possible to use large numbers of these drones for logistics and to reduce road traffic without disrupting people’s lives.