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Wingcopter wins World Bank drone challenge for emergency delivery

May 6, 2020  - By

German drone manufacturer wins two prizes at renowned Lake Kivu Challenge in Rwanda

On May 5, the organizing committee of the Lake Kivu Challenge announced the results and named Wingcopter the winner of the Emergency Delivery category.

Wingcopter also received a special award for its safety procedures. As a winner, the company receives a prize money of GBP 65,000.

The Lake Kivu Challenge is a collaboration between the Government of Rwanda, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID/UKAID), and the World Bank Group. The drone competition sought to demonstrate use cases for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) on the African continent.

The challenge took place at the 2020 African Drone Forum in Rwanda in February — a first of its kind on the continent. Hosted by the Rwandan government and inaugurated by President Paul Kagame, the forum showcased advances in autonomous drone delivery — advances that can make a significant difference for isolated communities and rural areas across Africa.

Tom Plümmer, Wingcopter CEO, accepts the award from Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. (Photo: Wingcopter)

Tom Plümmer, Wingcopter CEO, accepts the award from Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. (Photo: Wingcopter)

The challenge received 92 applications from 35 countries. Only the top 10 drone companies were invited to put their drones and operators to the test through real-life scenarios at Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda.

Throughout the three weeks of flights, Wingcopter was able to impress a panel of judges with perfect mission performance. This included fully automated delivery of an emergency package from a droneport on the mainland to Bugarura Island and a secure return landing.

The roundtrip, beyond-visual-line-of-sight-flight (BVLOS) was 40 kilometers and was completed without a battery swap. Wingcopter drones were able to complete the one-way route to the island within 12 minutes, a drastic reduction compared to more than 50 minutes by boat.

The package drop-off required no landing or human interaction, an attribute of Wingcopter’s innovative winch mechanism. Wingcopter had already successfully deployed a similar type of on-demand vaccine delivery to 19 remote villages in Vanuatu on behalf of the local Ministry of Health and supported by UNICEF.

The Wingcopter winch drop. (Photo: Wingcopter)

The Wingcopter winch drop. (Photo: Wingcopter)

“We are very proud to be winners of the Lake Kivu Challenge, as this challenge and the African Drone Forum embody the innovative spirit of humanitarian aid and the African drone community as well as the great potential for sustainable drone deployments,” said Tom Plümmer, CEO and co-founder of Wingcopter. “We strongly believe that Wingcopter drones can leapfrog existing infrastructure by delivering significant social and economic value in Africa and beyond.”

“Wingcopter’s goal is to develop long-term partnerships with local governments, private sector and donor organizations throughout Africa,” added Selina Herzog, project manager at Wingcopter. “It is through these partnerships that we will accomplish the knowledge-sharing and training of the local workforce, ultimately empowering local stakeholders to take over and scale operations. We want our technology to give back to the communities where we operate and create new perspectives.”

The African Drone Forum created a unique platform to tell the Wingcopter story and exhibit its technology to more than 1,000 key players within the international drone and humanitarian ecosystem, allowing immense networking opportunities with the potential for future partnerships and business deals. An initial memorandum of understanding with a Rwandan startup has already been signed; others will likely follow.

Wingcopter recently announced a commercial partnership with UPS Flight Forward to jointly develop the next generation of package delivery drones. The combination of UPS’ experience in logistics and its global network with Wingcopter’s contactless drone delivery technology will put the two companies in a better position to contribute to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Wingcopter is preparing multiple coronavirus-related projects.

Wingcopter on Bugarura Island. (Photo: Wingcopter)

Wingcopter on Bugarura Island. (Photo: Wingcopter)

 

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.