A drone delivery company known for transporting medical supplies like blood and vaccines is hungry for a new direction.
Wingcopter, a drone delivery firm headquartered just outside of Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday announced a $42 million series A extension that will help the company transition beyond medical drone deliveries into categories like grocery.
The extension more than tripled Wingcopter’s total equity raise to over $60 million, and it attracted some interesting investors. The most eye-catching one is Germany’s Rewe Group, one of the country’s largest grocery retailers with 12,000 stores across Europe.
Others included disruptive technology investors Salvia and XAI Technologies and Japan’s Itochu, a trading company that will give Wingcopter a foothold in the Japanese market.
At the time of the raise, Wingcopter operated primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, delivering medical supplies to rural areas. But with new investors from Europe and Asia, the firm is signaling its ambitions for more.
“At Wingcopter, we create efficient and sustainable drone solutions to save and improve lives. For this, we are hiring passionate pioneers with whom we build what has not existed before,” said Tom Plümmer, co-founder and CEO of Wingcopter. “The new funding, combined with growing revenues, puts us in an excellent position to establish our industry-leading drone delivery solution with our customers around the globe to optimize supply chains.”
In addition to expanding globally, Wingcopter also plans to use the fresh funding to boost production of its flagship Wingcopter 198 drone. The company said it has already sold most production slots for this year and next, and it anticipates its production facility in Germany to churn out “thousands” of drones per year. Production will soon be partly automated, it added.
The Wingcopter 198 is optimized for cargo flights, designed to carry a payload up to 13 pounds over a range of about 68 miles. It’s equipped with vertical takeoff and landing VTOL functionality and can even fly in heavy rain and strong winds.
Typically, drones that deliver items like groceries are smaller and more nimble. With new funding in tow, Wingcopter plans to ramp up R&D efforts for new product features, but it’s unclear whether it plans to modify the Wingcopter 198 design or build a new one entirely.
The firm will also hire 80 employees across all departments over the next few months.
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Wingcopter has been gathering some real momentum in recent months. In May, it secured a long-awaited Special Class Airworthiness Criteria from the FAA. That’s a major step toward rolling out commercial deliveries in the U.S., and it could positively impact the company’s other certification efforts in Brazil and Japan, among others.
Then just a week later, the firm inked a deal with Continental Drones to deploy 12,000 Wingcopter 198 aircraft across its network in sub-Saharan Africa. That process will take around five years. But if it were finished today, Wingcopter’s network would be the largest commercial drone deployment in history.
Part of the new funding will go toward that network. Wingcopter said it plans to add more drones and hubs to its operations in Malawi, where the company has been delivering medical supplies since 2019. Those services reach more than 115,000 people in the region.