Aerial drones today have both the capacity and the “smarts” to transport small items for last-mile delivery, but efforts to deploy them in the U.S. have generally been hamstrung by safety regulations or the physical challenges presented by densely populated urban environments.
But that’s not the case in Africa, where two technology partners have announced plans to establish drone-based delivery networks across the continent. The German drone delivery company Wingcopter and Continental Drones Ltd., a subsidiary of Ghana- and Dubai-based Atlantic Trust Holding, recently announced they will cooperate to build drone-based delivery networks covering all 49 sub-Saharan countries. Over the next five years, the partners plan to deploy 12,000 Wingcopter delivery drones in the region, making it the largest commercial deployment in the global delivery drone industry to date.
Deliveries will be made via the Wingcopter 198 model, a fully electric drone named for its wingspan as measured in centimeters (about six and a half feet). The unit can carry a payload of 13 pounds over a range of 68 miles, flying at a default cruise speed of 62 mph, the manufacturer says.
According to the partners, the drone network will bridge the infrastructure gap found in many parts of Africa, providing governments and the private sector with climate-neutral, reliable, and fast logistics capabilities. They note that potential applications include the on-demand delivery of medicines, vaccines, and laboratory samples as well as essential goods for daily use.