Multibillion dollar pharmaceutical giant Merck Group is getting on the drone delivery train after testing how drones can deliver samples.
In a project done in coordination with Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and drone manufacturer Wingcopter (which recently announced a big funding round and drone pilot hiring spree), Merck successfully demonstrated how it can fly samples between one Merck sitte to its headquarters 25 kilometers away.
The project is in part funded by the government, with The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) providing € 107,000 (about $120,000) from its “mFUND,” which is designed to support digital business ideas. (The money is going to Wingcopter and the Frankfurt UAS, rather than Merck directly.)
The drone that did the sample flight was an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft built by startup Wingcopter, carrying pigment samples. It flew between a Merck site in Gernsheim to a laboratory at Merck headquarters in Darmstadt about 25 kilometers away.
“We know of no other project in the world where goods are delivered over such a distance and out of sight by drone in a metropolitan region – across electricity and train routes, motorways and state roads as well as production infrastructure,” said Stefan Nowak, Wingcopter project manager.
The company said that typically a van would carry samples twice a day to carry out the same task. the companies are still evaluating whether the drone could be propelled into a long-term business model, and stakeholders are still analyzing factors such as time savings, sustainability, cost, and flexibility. But experts already said they think the project will end up resulting in time savings and reduced emissions, but they expect to put out a more complete report at the end of the month.