Drone delivery startup Wingcopter is partnering with Ana Holdings Inc. (Ana HD) to accelerate the delivery of vital pharmaceuticals and other consumer products via unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
The companies will begin conducting trials with electrical fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft developed by Wingcopter. The goal is to build a drone delivery network serving Japan.
“The ongoing tests of Wingcopter aircraft represent a significant step forward in the creation of a viable drone transportation network,” said Tetsuya Kubo, vice president of Ana HD overseeing the Digital Design Lab. “We are excited to partner with Wingcopter as we build on the advances and innovation of previous trials to bring drone delivery one step closer to reality. Once fully realized, a functioning drone transportation infrastructure will help improve quality of life in rural areas across Japan.”
Wingcopter will provide the support in terms of training pilots, mission planning, operation design as well as maintenance. Ana HD will use its aviation knowledge to follow local aviation regulations. Ana HD has been developing autonomous technology since 2016 including developing prototype baggage loaders and towing tractors for airports. The company also laid the framework for a drone transportation infrastructure with the aim for commercializing drone delivery services by 2022. The company has also conducted drone delivery trials in Japan since 2018.
The first phase of the current test began in March, demonstrating the viability of drone delivery for medical supplies. The ongoing trials will help Ana HD to determine how the aircraft are best suited to operate in each region of Japan, evaluating weather conditions and demand for drone delivery. This will also include establishing a series of hubs along a transportation network.
Wingcopter’s eVTOL aircraft can fly longer distances and represent an alternative to overland delivery in many regions. Wingcopter said its drones can withstand strong wind or inclement weather after conducting projects in stormy conditions in Ireland and in the hot desert of the United Arab Emirates. The partnership with Ana HD will help Wingcopter to expand in the Japanese market.