New project aims to set up medical drone deliveries in Africa

5 Jun 2023

Image: Fabian Gysel

Wingcopter has teamed up with Siemens Healthineers to transport lab samples and medical supplies, to speed up treatments in rural communities.

A new partnership aims to create a drone delivery system for healthcare facilities in Africa, transporting lab samples and other supplies.

Siemens Healthineers has selected German drone delivery start-up Wingcopter to trial this system, which is being designed to improve diagnostics and lead to faster treatment in rural communities.

The system will combine Wingcopter’s delivery drones with Siemens Healthineers’ laboratory diagnostics facilities, to create a two-way delivery system. Examples of the planned transported materials include blood samples, vaccines and pharmaceutical products.

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop this system but have not announced the exact location of where the first deliveries will occur.

“Our partnership with Wingcopter will look to bridge the existing gaps in healthcare infrastructure, providing equitable and affordable access to diagnostic testing and medical supplies,” said Ole Maloy, MD of Siemens Healthineers in the Middle East, Southern and Eastern Africa.

Founded in 2017 by Tom Plümmer, Jonathan Hesselbarth and Ansgar Kadura, Wingcopter manufactures and operates uncrewed drones, focusing on the delivery of medical goods as well as parcels and food.

The company said it has been involved in small-scale humanitarian projects, such as in Malawi, where it claimed to have partnered with governmental organisations to deliver life-saving medicines and supplies in rural areas that are hard to reach via traditional transport.

In 2021, Wingcopter capitalised on the growth in contactless deliveries during the Covid-19 pandemic and raised $22m in Series A funding.

Last month, the start-up raised €40m thanks to funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to develop and scale its fleet of cargo drones.

Plümmer said Siemens Healthineers is the “perfect partner” to help the German start-up achieve “bold ambitions” of helping people in Africa.

“Partnering with Siemens Healthineers will bring us a big step closer to the goal we are working tirelessly towards: to make a real social impact worldwide for those who need it most through fast, reliable and sustainable drone delivery networks in the sky,” Plümmer said.

Wingcopter is one of many rising drone delivery companies operating in some capacity in Europe, such as Bobby Healy’s Manna Drone Delivery and Alphabet’s Wing.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic