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UPS taps German start-up for next-generation drone fleet

UPS is developing a new generation of package delivery drones as it looks to expand the use cases they can serve.

The new drones will use patented technologies from German start-up Wingcopter. Its models can switch between two drone modes: multi-copter hovering and fixed-wing forward flight. The drones are able to take-off and land vertically.

The next generation aims to offer extended range, speed and cargo capacity, meaning that the drones can be used in high-tech industrial manufacturing, hospitality and entertainment.

The two companies will work towards earning a regulatory certification for a Wingcopter drone to make commercial delivery flights in the US.

Bala Ganesh, vice president of the UPS Advanced Technology Group, said: “Drone delivery is not a one-size-fits-all operation.

“Our collaboration with Wingcopter helps pave the way for us to start drone delivery service in new use-cases. UPS Flight Forward is building a network of technology partners to broaden our unique capability to serve customers and extend our leadership in drone delivery.”

Tom Plümmer, Wingcopter CEO and co-founder, said: “We are proud to partner with UPS, a global giant in delivery and logistics. Together we aspire to extend the speed and reach of package delivery.

“Our vision has always been to leverage technology to improve the lives of people around the world, and the strategic relationship with UPS will further accelerate our growth and global expansion, strengthening our role as an industry leader in drone technology.”

UPS already has live pilots of drone deliveries. In July 2019, UPS said it was introducing the Flight Forward subsidiary to allow it to quickly apply for certification to fly drones.

The Flight Forward programme in October added new customers including the University of Utah Health, drug store CVS Health, healthcare solutions provider AmerisourceBergen and healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente. All the applications include delivery of medical products, either to medical professionals or in the case of CVS Health, to consumers.

The trials build on UPS’s operational drone programme with Matternet at WakeMed Hospital in North Carolina.