Wingcopter is getting a boost from the opposite side of the world, as the Germany-based drone delivery company announced this month a 7-figure investment from Japanese venture capital company Drone Fund. This marks both the first time Drone Fund has invested in a German company and the first time it has invested in a company building eVTOL drone technology.
The exact amount of Japanese venture funding was not disclosed, though the figure came out of the company’s Drone Fund III Investment Limited Partnership, which consists of $90 million and has about 50 other investments. Earlier this year, the company announced that it had received $22 million in Series A funding.
But while this is Drone Fund’s first investment in a German company, Wingcopter has had strong ties to Japan already. The company in 2020 signed a partnership with major Japanese airline ANA.
Wingcopter already has deep ties with Japan. Last year, the company signed a partnership agreement with Japan’s biggest airline ANA to build a drone delivery network. Trials for that project have been ongoing over the past couple months.
What else is on the docket for Wingcopter? The company is now working on a partnership with a Japanese trading company, which will distribute and provide technical support for Wingcopter’s Wingcopter 198 drone. That’s the newest iteration of the Wingcopter flagship drone, which features a triple-drop delivery drone design intended to make deliveries more efficient by enabling it to make up to three stops in one trip.
Wingcopter has been working to expand the number of people authorized to fly its drones through the Wingcopter Authorized Partnership Program (WAPP). Rather than employ its own operators, the company instead is building a global network of partners including drone operators, resellers, and agents that are trained and allowed to operate, promote, and distribute the Wingcopter 198.
Wingcopter’s drones are known for their patented tilt-rotor mechanism, which allows the Wingcopter drones to take off and land vertically like a multicopter (most common to what you think of when you hear ‘drone’) but can also morph into a fixed-wing aircraft (like an airplane), enabling it to fly longer distances more efficiently and quickly, even in tough weather conditions like heavy rain and strong wind.
In June 2020, Wingcopter was named a Technology Pioneesr by the World Economic Forum in recognition of its social impact as part of the fourth industrial revolution, and separately were a finalist in the third annual AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards 2020. The company also holds a Guinness World record in speed for flying 150 mph.
Japan has been proving to be a hot market for drone delivery.
“The country is very progressive with respect to the integration of drones into everyday life,” according to a statement from Wingcopter. “Already in 2017, the Japanese government recognized the extraordinary potential drones have to offer in many different sectors of life and business and created a first national commercial drone roadmap, the so-called Roadmap for the Application and Technology Development of UAVs in Japan, and has continuously adapted it ever since.”
Among the other drone innovations happening in Japan include a project led by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization to develop a drone traffic management system for multiple drone operators to fly in the same airspace safely. For that project, NEDO is working with drone delivery software company ANRA Technology to actually deploy airspace management and drone delivery software platform for live drone flights, including routes where prescription drugs will be delivered between Municipal Wakkanai Hospital and Ein Pharmacy to remote disconnected areas.
Japan is also testing automatic negotiation AI technology, which is being researched and developed with RIKEN and Industrial Technology Research Institute, and digital twin technology, which is being researched with the National Institute of Informatics.