German logistics and aviation holding Zeitfracht Group and its subsidiary German Airways will be among the first companies worldwide to commercially deploy drones in logistics. In a joint letter of intent with the German manufacturer Wingcopter, the companies have agreed to purchase 17 Wingcopter 198 delivery drones and acquire options to order an additional 115 drones in two further tranches by the end of 2023. The aircraft are to be deployed from the second half of 2024 – initially offshore, for example for the delivery of spare parts to wind farms.
The Zeitfracht Group is already successfully operating in this business with its specialized shipping company OPUS Marine. As the delivery drones must be able to land with pinpoint accuracy on a moving ship, their use will be technically demanding. German Airways and Wingcopter will work closely together on the development of this feature.
The Wingcopters will take off from Rostock Airport, which has also been part of the Zeitfracht Group since the beginning of the year and offers the Wingcopter development team an ideal environment for extended test flights as well as premises for measurements and the evaluation of the data collected in the process.
Holding an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), German Airways already fulfills essential requirements to operate Wingcopter’s delivery drones in the “specific category” and, later, in the “certified category”. In addition, German Airways is also IOSA certified and thus operates according to the highest internationally agreed standards of the international aviation authority IATA.
Wingcopters can carry a payload of up to five kilograms and – depending on the payload – can cover distances between 75 and 110 kilometers. The aircraft were selected by German Airways because of their extraordinary wind- and weather resistance and their globally leading payload-to-range ratio. They take off vertically, without requiring additional infrastructure, and then move forward horizontally in flight like a normal aircraft. Thanks to their purely electric propulsion, Wingcopter delivery drones also contribute to zero-emission logistics.
Zeitfracht CEO Wolfram Simon-Schröter: “At the Zeitfracht Group, we are very creative and always interested in using new technologies in a market-leading way. We believe the time is now ripe for the commercial use of drones, for example for the delivery of spare parts to offshore wind farms. With German Airways, our Rostock Airport and the experience of our shipping company OPUS in delivery operations on the high seas, together with Wingcopter we have the ideal prerequisites to drive this technology a huge step forward.”
“We are very pleased to have won Zeitfracht as a partner with extraordinary experience in the logistics and aviation sector. With the planned supply flights to ships and offshore wind farms, we will tap into a new, fast-growing field of application for which the Wingcopter 198 is ideally suited thanks to its high efficiency, even in extreme weather conditions. In addition, the test site and the close cooperation offer the opportunity to jointly develop further promising business areas,” adds Tom Plümmer, co-founder and CEO of Wingcopter.
Why it matters: The first widespread implementation of eVTOL technology will likely be with drones and the German Airways/Wingcopter partnership is the latest iteration in a long string of delivery drone partnerships. For Zeitfracht Group, the Wingcopter 198 offers an ideal solution for delivery of spare parts to over-water wind farms with speed, accuracy, and zero emissions.