In an innovative leap for the grocery delivery sector, German startup Wingcopter has unveiled a game-changing drone and electric cargo-bike combination, aimed at serving remote regions in Central Germany. The scheme, introduced this Thursday, promises not just convenience but also an environmentally conscious touch to the shopping experience.
Imagine living in Michelstadt, Hesse, and ordering your weekly groceries online. Once your order is placed, an autonomous drone takes off, heading towards your village. It’s not coming directly to your door just yet. Instead, the drone, loaded with your non-perishable items from a nearby supermarket, is directed to a specific drop-off location. From here, an eco-friendly cargo-bike, manned by a person, takes over, ensuring your groceries reach your doorstep. This entire process promises not only efficiency but also a zero-emission delivery.
Named “LieferMichel”, this pioneering initiative springs from a collaboration between Wingcopter and the local REWE supermarket, a significant supporter of the startup. As the trial progresses, the hope is to rope in more retailers, broadening the scope of this delivery method.
Tom Plümmer, the enthusiastic CEO of Wingcopter, shares his vision for this project, stating, “With LieferMichel, we’re not just launching Germany’s first drone delivery service for everyday goods. Our primary vision is to gather insights and to work alongside the local community, understanding how this eco-friendly and efficient method can truly benefit them.”
The birth of the Drone-Cargo Bike Express Delivery or DroLEx (in German, Drohnen-Lastenrad-Express-Belieferung) is not just the brainchild of Wingcopter. The Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS) plays a pivotal role. This project has also caught the attention of the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV), backing it with a generous “Innovative Air Mobility” fund of €430,000. The current pilot is set to wrap up by the close of 2023.
A quick glimpse at Wingcopter reveals its rapid ascent since its establishment in 2017. The brainchild of Tom Plümmer, Jonathan Hesselbarth, and Ansgar Kadura, this Darmstadt-based firm, backed by influential investors like the European Investment Bank and REWE Group, boasts a 150-strong workforce. Their recent marvel, the Wingcopter 198 drone, showcases impressive specs. Powered by a unique tilt-rotor technology, this drone can withstand challenging weather conditions, carry up to 5kg, and cruise at 100km/h.
However, delivering groceries is just the tip of the iceberg for Wingcopter. The company’s drones have been making ripples across various sectors. From delivering medical supplies to distant islands in Vanuatu and Ireland to inspecting volcanoes in Italy and examining infrastructure in Norway, the potential applications are vast.
While zero-emission grocery delivery might be a lifeline for isolated rural regions in the years ahead, Wingcopter’s vision stretches far beyond. Their blend of technology and eco-consciousness sets a precedent, signaling a future where the sky’s the limit for delivery possibilities.