Wingcopter, a startup from Germany that has made a name for itself in the world of delivery drones mainly used to deliver medicines and other goods to remote areas, has raised some more funding to expand its business. The European Investment Bank is putting €40 million (nearly $44 million) into the startup, funding it will use in two areas: further developing the hardware line; and to launch a new logistics and delivery services business anchored by a fleet of its drones.
The financing is described as “quasi-equity” – and it is a common approach from the EIB (other examples here and here) where part of the financing comes in as equity and the rest as a venture loan. Tom Plümmer, the CEO and co-founder of Wingcopter, declined to reveal the proportions of either in an interview. He said the plan is to raise a significant Series B next year — or when the markets turn.
For now, this latest infusion brings the total raised by Wingcopter to €100 million, which was also supported in two previous fundraises by a mix of strategic and financial backers such as retail giant REWE, Xplorer Capital, Japan’s ITOCHU and Expa, the investment firm founded by Garrett Camp from Uber.
And it more than doubles Wingcopter’s previous valuation — a figure it also doesn’t disclose. But when you consider that its larger US counterpart Zipline increased last month $330 million at a valuation of $4.2 billionWingcopter clearly sees the opportunity in the market – and given that it only raised about a tenth of the total amount, where it probably is now.
Wingcopter’s elevation comes at a key moment in the wider vertical takeoff and landing space in general. In addition to Zipline’s increase just a week ago, VTOL company Lilium, which is developing an air taxi business, has revealed that it raised another $250 million, with $100 million pledged by Tencent to date. The company is publicly listed on NasdaqGS and the stock is floundering and took a little bump from the news.
Indeed, in today’s more unpredictable financial waters, companies like Wingcopter, Zipline, and others in the space like Flytrex have something the air taxi companies don’t: active deployments, albeit small ones. The company has partnered with UNICEF in Malawi to deliver medicines to hard-to-reach areas, and the plan is to expand that service to more regions and in more partnerships.
Wingcopter, like Zipline, has focused most of its efforts on the emerging region of Africa and on very specific use cases.
While the company is still awaiting regulatory approval to launch pilots and eventually services in Europe, he said he had been approached by the German government to see if Wingcopter’s drones could help become part of the fleet of drones that sent to Ukraine to help it. with his defense against Russia.
Wingcopter refused: The company, he said, is committed to never using its drones in combat situations. However, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that they might at some point be used to deliver goods when the fighting ends and Ukraine becomes more focused on reconstruction.
In the meantime, the plan will be to expand business development to other emerging regions besides Africa, including Asia and Latin America. And that’s where the service element comes in. To be clear, Wingcopter will continue to develop and sell drones to individual organizations as it has done so far. Inside the wings is a hydrogen-powered model that, Plümmer said, will increase the range of his plane five times compared to models currently powered by batteries. “We will do Frankfurt to Berlin on one charge,” he said.
But more realistically, the unit cost of Wingcraft’s models tends to remain too high for the type of organizations likely to use them the most, so the startup will also be looking at ways to offer services on top of fleets of vehicles it will rent out instead.
Currently, in partnership with Unicef, Wingcopter uses a mix of its own proprietary software on its own devices alongside third-party ERP software such as SAP. But the plan is to build its own logistics and delivery backend to manage this service and work with its fleet and any other device that might make sense to use for other parts of a delivery.
“We will integrate our existing drone software into a logistics system that we will design, and we will track orders,” he said. “This is partly why Garrett (Camp) was interested in us. But yes, as a logistics service provider we need to be more platform independent and open. We want to build the best logistics service, so we’re looking at a combination of air and ground vehicles, and we’re open to more partnerships than we would have been as a drone company alone.”
Part of the EIB’s mandate is to finance promising start-ups from Europe to advance the technology industry in the region, but another part is to invest in projects that advance the region’s environmental mandates, which is what this is all about. the case, as the use of drones not only reduces the amount of traffic and emissions from vans, but also advances the work being done to build more clean energy systems, as is the case with Wingcopter’s hydrogen-powered model currently under development .
“Europe is currently the world leader in cleantech and we have to work hard to maintain this lead. Supporting European cleantech pioneers with global reach, such as Wingcopter, is central to our mission,” EIB VP Ambroise Fayolle, who oversees Germany, said in a statement. “Electric cargo drones are an important vertical segment for a sustainable transport and logistics future. This investment underlines our commitment to supporting entrepreneurs who grow and build advanced green technology companies in the European Union, strengthen our technological competitiveness, create highly skilled jobs and open new markets, while preserving nature. We are proud to support this European success story.”