Drone Fund III is the third fund from Drone Fund, a venture capital company specializing in drone and air mobility-related startups. Wingcopter said the investment is the first for the fund in an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft company.
“This investment comes at a time when we are intensifying our efforts on the Japanese market. We are convinced that the Drone Fund team will open doors, allowing us to bring drone delivery services to more customers in Japan and beyond. It also makes us really proud that we are the only eVTOL drone company in their portfolio of about 50 investments. I believe the investment is testament to the fact that the Wingcopter 198 is really leading the way of delivery drone technology,” Tom Plümmer, CEO of Wingcopter, said in a statement.
Plümmer noted that Wingcopter is in advanced talks with investors on a series B round of funding. The German company’s last funding came via a $22 million series A round announced in January. Current investors include Xplorer Capital, Futury Capital, Expa, Hessen Kapital III, and Corecam Capital Partners.
Watch: Bill Wimberley, head of business development for Wingcopter
“We have seen the air logistics network in Japan developing at an accelerated pace with the lifting of the ban on Level 3 flights in 2021,” Kotaro Chiba, founder and managing partner of Drone Fund, said. “Wingcopter is one of the most reliable and cutting-edge eVTOL hardware, software and AI providers in the world, with successful experience in Japan. We are honored to be able to invest in such a great team. We look forward to working with the Wingcopter team to contribute to the development of drone logistics in Japan and abroad.”
Wingcopter has an agreement to build a drone delivery network for Japan-based airline ANA, with trials already underway. The company is also expected to announce a strategic agreement shortly with a large sogo shosha (Japanese general trading company) through Wingcopter’s Authorized Partnership Program (WAPP).
The sogo shosha will act as a distributor and local technical support provider for Wingcopter’s unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the Wingcopter 198, in Japan. The WAPP is Wingcopter’s global network of strategic partners and includes drone operators, resellers and agents that are trained and allowed to operate, promote and distribute the triple-drop delivery drone.
The Wingcopter 198, first announced in April, offers the ability to make three separate deliveries on a single flight. According to Wingcopter’s website, the 198 drone has achieved Level 4 autonomous flying. At this level, human interaction is rarely required, but still there is an override option if there is a system failure. Using geofencing and the drone’s control station software, the systematics of the drone optimize the workflow of the logistics provider in command.
According to the drone’s specifications sheet, the drone is ground loaded and can deliver on the ground or in the air with a slow drop. The Wingcopter operation management system can operate up to 10 drones at a time, enabling one logistics commander to manage up to 30 different packages.
The Wingcopter 198 carries two smart batteries that can maximize the drone’s time in the air and allow for quick swaps on the ground. Depending on the weight of the shipment, drones can fly up to 59 miles within an hour with these batteries and fully charge within 90 minutes, according to the spec sheet.