Wingcopter is a successful German drone startup and Merck is an American multinational pharmaceutical company and one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The two companies in partnership with Frankfurt University have been working to showcase the benefits of drones as a delivery method instead of trucks or other road-faring vehicles for moving small cargo between two physically separate office facilities. Especially they conducted a delivery test that spanned over 25 km(roughly 15.5 miles). They took a sample of pigments from one Merck lab in Gernsheim to Merck headquarters in Darmstadt in Germany, thereby successfully completing their first drone trials.

A Wingcopter and Merck delivery drone
The Wingcopter and Merck drone.

Benefits of the Trials

The trial proves that using drones instead of trucks seems to provide advantages in terms of time. The time saved can range from an hour to a full day in some cases. It can cut down on the number of empty return trips made by large, heavy gas-guzzling vehicles, as well. The drone used was the Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift. This drone can function both as a VTOL multi-rotor as well as a fixed-wing drone with a range of 120km.

Wingcopter and Merck drone
Image source: Wingcopter ( https://wingcopter.com/technology )

The drone trials produced some additional results:

  • The area covered by the drones spanned a fairly dense metropolitan area, flying over power lines, trains, roadways and more. 
  • The trial was carried out Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). This is something a lot of drone delivery companies are striving for.
  • The possibility of Wingcopter gaining an edge over other similar testing and pilot projects.

A Wingcopter spokesperson stated, “Wingcopter was selected for the project since its drones have all the qualities needed for air freight transport between two or more facilities: They can take off and land vertically on the smallest of spaces, but thanks to their swivel-rotor mechanism they can also cover longer distances much more efficiently, quickly and quietly than conventional multicopters.”

However, a big issue at the moment is the sound of drones flying above, which is very noisy. Despite being an efficient method of cargo transportation, drone companies will have to reassure the people of the drone’s safety as it flies into civilian space. Another hurdle that may arise is getting FAA approval for commercial deliveries. Many drone delivery startups like Amazon Air, are still awaiting the green flag. Nevertheless, delivery drones are predicted to be fully operational in most industries by the end of 2021.

Here’s an insight into the future of Wingcopter and Merck’s drone deliveries: