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UPS partners with Wingcopter to develop new multipurpose drone delivery fleet

Darrell Etherington

UPS is working with German startup Wingcopter to develop a new type of delivery drone, to be used for the logistics company's growing commercial drone delivery efforts both in the U.S. and globally. Wingcopter has already designed an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that has a range of up to 75 miles and can achieve speeds as high as 150 miles per hour in conditions that include wind speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.

Wingcopter will be working closely with UPS' Flight Forward subsidiary, the dedicated drone delivery unit that UPS developed last year in July to house its commercial drone delivery program. In October, Flight Forward received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to effectively operate a full-scale "drone airline" at scale for the purpose of package delivery.

Wingcopter has already demonstrated how its drones could operate in commercial settings, including during a demonstration with Merck earlier this year that saw its autonomous eVTOLs carry small packages between the drug company's various office locations in Darmstadt in Germany. It also used its aircraft to deliver critical medical supplies and life-saving equipment to hard to reach areas, including through partnerships with UNICEF and other relief organizations.

This collaboration will begin with efforts on behalf of both companies to certify Wingcopter's aircraft for use in making commercial delivery in the U.S., which will pave the way for collaborative development of additional types of aircraft that will serve a variety of needs, including in industries ranging from healthcare to hospitality to retail and more.

Wingcopter's main advantage is a design that allows it to switch from hovering and vertical lift to a low-noise forward flight mode, which is better suited to use over populated areas. It manages this using a tilt-rotor design, which has the added benefit of making it more stable in difficult weather conditions, including rain and high winds.