By Nathan Ohiomokhare

Aims Cutting Covid-19 Vaccine delivery time:

A handful of drone-delivery startups are currently discussing with governments around the world especially Africa on their ability to use unmanned aerial drones to transport Covid-19 vaccine doses from distribution facilities to health centers mainly in remote or hard-to-access region, flying along fixed routes to move doses in bulk. They are actively vying for a logistical role in the largest vaccination campaign in history. Several of these companies recently have entered into medical delivery partnerships with drug companies and retailers thereby positioning them to take part in the high-profile effort to distribute Covid-19 vaccines. The aim is to streamline operations and cut costs across distribution networks. The drones have temperature-control technology that is used to transport Covid-19 vaccines.

Tight security measures under consideration by governments such as Nigeria and companies meant to guard against theft and highly specific storage temperature requirements would have to be factored in.

Australian drone company, Swoop Aero, is currently discussing with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s head of public health about delivering a Covid-19 vaccines via drone using a drone delivery network it has developed in the country.

Swoop Aero, which operates fleets of electric fixed-wing drones that take off and land vertically, has delivered vaccines, such as for Ebola, as well as other medical supplies, in Africa since 2018. Some of the company’s aircraft can fly up to 90 miles on a single charge and carry more than 500 doses of vaccines.

Venture-capital investors have poured $405 million into drone startups through the first nine months of this year.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck partnered with Volansi in September to fly medicines and vaccines using an electric Volansi drone capable of carrying roughly 5 pounds of medical cargo from a Merck manufacturing facility in North Carolina to a nearby health clinic in unmanned autonomous drones.

A Startup company, Germany based Wingcopter, which develops transport drones for Health and humanitarian operations, has succeeded in raising $22Million (approx N8.38 Billion) in its latest pitch to investors. This strengthens its position as as a leader in drone-based logistics in the Healthcare sector, with a special focus on healthcare-related applications, including the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The company is establishing more partnerships worldwide centering around othee fully automated delivery applications. Wingcopter The company develops, manufactures, and operates the unmanned eVTOL fixed-wing aircraft.

Silicon Valley-based Xplorer Capital and Futury Regio Growth Fund, a Germany-based fund are the core investors.
With new cash injection Wingcopter will now be able to finish building its its 7,200 square meter (77,500 square feet) partially automated serial production facility at the company's new headquarters in Weiterstadt, Germany. The facility is currently home to more than 100 employees. The company will carry out a swift ramp-up to mass production to meet a constantly growing global demand.

The Wingcopter 178 Heavy Lift, provides both one- and two-way delivery, covering distances of up to 120 kilometres. It can accurately lower a package through a winch mechanism, or land at the point of destination and return to its origin with a new payload.

The company says in an official press statement that its mass production strategy "combines the scaling methods of the automotive industry with an aviation-grade discipline for quality and safety,”

The company’s patented drone far exceeds the range and payload capabilities of commercial multicopter drones. Wingcopters can fly long distances as efficiently and quickly as fixed-wing aircraft, reaching ranges of up to 75 miles (120 kilometres) and a Guinness world record speed of 150 mph (240 km/h). Even in strong winds of up to 44 mph (70 km/h) or inclement weather.

Wingcopter is curently operting in Malawi, East Africa Providing COVID-19 support. It recently started a long-term COVID-19 response project named Drone + Data Aid to improve healthcare supply chains together with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Wingcopter has also partnered with UNICEF’S African Drone and Data Academy to train local youth in drone operations, from mission planning to piloting beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) delivery and surveying flights.

This is with the aim of improving public healthcare delivery and supporting healthcare infrastructure of African nations.

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