There were two noteworthy developments in the commercial drone space last week, so let’s fly right to them (ugh, I know). Step by step, we get closer to the dream of having a pizza delivered to our doors by air.
1. Wingcopter gets some wind beneath its wings to speed vaccine delivery
Wingcopter, a commercial drone company, based in Germany, raised $22 million in a funding round led by Xplorer Capital and Futury Regio Growth Fund.
The company says some of the proceeds will be used to spread the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to remote places in countries like Africa and Southeast Asia. Proceeds will also be used to launch its next-gen drones, set up a partially automated production facility, and build out U.S. operations.
Commercial drone market expansion
Industry reports peg the market to grow to $6.3B by 2026, which is over 5X the market size of $1.2B in 2018.
This is another space buoyed by the pandemic has increased as demand has taken off for drone services for things like medical supply deliveries and site inspections. Aerospace giant Honeywell has taken notice and recently launched a new business unit focusing on drones, air taxis, and cargo delivery vehicles.
Wingcopter’s drones are electric and feature a tilt-rotor mechanism that enables them to take off and land vertically like a helicopter. According to the company, their range is up to 75 miles without a payload and fly relatively quietly at an altitude of about 3.1 miles.
2. FAA approves commercial drone flights that are fully automated for the first time
The FAA approved American Robotics Inc. request to fly its drones in U.S. airspace without a human pilot monitoring the drone on site, according to the WSJ. The drones can only be flown on an automated basis over rural areas in certain states for now, but this is a big opening for development of widespread automated drone flights in the future.
Using AI or other tech to automate the use of drones is a lot cheaper than having a human pilot having to be on site and fly a drone. The military uses such technology to fly attack drones halfway across the globe, for example. Advanced Robotics’ drones use predetermined flight programs and acoustic technology to automate their flying and avoid obstacles.