German Wingcopter will be the first major supplier to United Parcell Service’s (UPS) express parcel delivery fleet, and new models can be born through the partnership. The company’s product would be used experimentally in confined areas, the challenge could be flying over populated areas.
In 2019, the U.S. Postal Company received a permit from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for drone operation after several test flights with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A subsidiary called Flight Flight Forward (UPSFF) was recently formed for the task, supplying smaller medical devices and specimens in North Carolina, also on an experimental basis, but already as a commercial activity. The aim of the partnership between UPSFF and Wingcopter is to obtain US certification for an existing drone and then jointly develop new ones.
The joint statement from the two companies also states that the German company’s own-brand, heavy-duty, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle has already been tested in several closed areas in Africa with medical equipment or small life-saving consignments. The special feature of this drone type is that it also has wings, it can take off and land vertically, but by placing the rotors in a horizontal position in the air, it can be maneuvered in the same way as conventional aircraft. As a result, it is able to move much faster than traditional multi-engine UAVs, and has a much longer payload and range than current UPSFF drones, so they can be used in other areas as well. In the United States, however, operating under strict safety standards over areas inhabited by drones can be a challenge. It will not be easy for UPS to use this mode of delivery in a densely populated urban environment full of tall buildings, although it would be essential for its widespread deployment.
By the way, according to tests so far, flying in bad weather conditions is not a problem for Wingcopter, it has already happened over the North Sea. Experience has shown that flight safety functions performed autonomously on a pre-programmed route work reliably, and controllers can control the flight well even without direct visual contact (BVLOS). Google is also thinking of a self-developed design, with a company called Project Wing that was licensed for commercial testing in 2019.