ANA Holdings, Wingcopter partner to deliver essentials in Japan

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ANA Holdings is collaborating with German drone manufacturer and service provider Wingcopter to accelerate the delivery of vital pharmaceuticals and other consumer products via unmanned aircraft. The two aviation innovators is conducting comprehensive trials with the electrical fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft developed by Wingcopter for serving needs across Japan. 

ANA is preparing the service as the Japanese government takes steps toward relaxing drone regulations sometime in the same fiscal year.

It will be the first time for a domestic airline to start a drone transportation service.

“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 realised, a functioning drone transportation infrastructure will help improve quality of life in rural areas across Japan.”                                                                                                                       

In 2016, ANA began to lay the framework for its drone transportation infrastructure, with the aim of fully commercialising drone delivery services by 2022. Drone delivery trials have been conducted in Japan since 2018, and the first flights with Wingcopter aircraft took place in 2019. Also in 2019, ANA HD signed an MoU with Zambia government to conduct similar field tests with drones to improve the delivery of medical supplies in Zambia.

The first phase of the current tests took place between March 21-26, with the supervised flight of a Wingcopter aircraft between Fukuejima and Hisakajima in Goto City, Nagasaki Prefecture. The flights demonstrated the viability of drone delivery for medical supplies, dramatically reducing patients’ waiting times. In this remote region of Japan, it is difficult to quickly transport medical supplies due to poor infrastructure. This has created problems for public health officials and medical professionals looking to rapidly respond in situations where time is a key factor in treatment.

For Wingcopter, the partnership with ANA HD is the first major step in its quest to expand in the Japanese market. The company recently opened its own representative office in Japan, offering solutions in commercial drone delivery.

“Being able to help a global company like ANA open up new business areas and at the same time pursue our mission to save and improve lives, is what we tirelessly work for,“ added Tom Plümmer, CEO of Wingcopter. “We are really looking forward to the next steps and the overall partnership with ANA in Japan and beyond.”

In 2020, Wingcopter was awarded the Sustainable Development Goals Spotlight Prize at NTT DATA’s Open Innovation Challenge in Tokyo.

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