Hydrogen power for delivery drones: Wingcopter and ZAL GmbH start joint development
March 16, 2023, Weiterstadt/Hamburg, Germany — Wingcopter, the German developer and operator of delivery drones, and Hamburg-based ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research GmbH have announced a development partnership. Together, they intend to explore the potential of green hydrogen to power Wingcopter's drones, which are already purely electric, and develop a sustainable, hydrogen-based propulsion system. The propulsion system will later be produced by Wingcopter itself and installed in its delivery drones.
By refitting the battery-powered Wingcopter 198 to run on hydrogen, the plan is for the drone to not only continue to fly emission-free in the future, but to become even more powerful. The Wingcopter already achieves higher ranges and speeds than most competitors' models thanks to the added lift of its wings and its aerodynamic design. However, hydrogen propulsion could ensure even longer flight times and thus enable correspondingly greater distances for different delivery applications.
The project-related modification of the Wingcopter will take place at ZAL‘s Fuel Cell Lab in Hamburg. As part of the development partnership, a solution is being developed that will fit into the existing technical ecosystem of the Wingcopter delivery drone while preserving the characteristic flight capabilities of the Wingcopter. In the past, ZAL engineers have already been able to achieve a flight duration of over two hours with the company's own ZALbatros hydrogen drone. This was achieved using compressed gaseous hydrogen in combination with a fuel cell. A comparable technology will also be used in the Wingcopter.
"We are very excited about the collaboration and are confident that together we can develop an even more efficient propulsion solution that benefits nature at the same time. We have always wanted the Wingcopter to be able to fly even further. However, we categorically ruled out the installation of a conventional combustion engine right from the start with a view to the environment and climate change. We are happy to now explore technical possibilities in the field of hydrogen propulsion together with the ZAL experts and then put the best concept into practice," explains Wingcopter co-founder and CEO Tom Plümmer.
Roland Gerhards, CEO of ZAL GmbH, adds: “Our mission is to bring hydrogen into the air and create innovative solutions for sustainable aviation. With Wingcopter as our partner, we're not only impressed by their drones' flight performance, but also by their clear vision of how urban air mobility and especially drone delivery can help improve people's lives. This aligns perfectly with ZAL's values. With our expertise, we want to convert the Wingcopter to hydrogen and thus strengthen the Hamburg UAM network Windrove with another flagship project.”
Wingcopter is a German manufacturer of unmanned, all-electric delivery drones and provider of drone delivery services, specializing in improving medical supply chains and the logistics of urgently needed goods. The 150-strong team is dedicated to improving and saving lives worldwide through meaningful commercial and humanitarian applications. Wingcopter is a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer.
Thanks to its patented tilt-rotor mechanism and proprietary software algorithms, the Wingcopter 198 can take off and land vertically like a multicopter, while flying long distances as efficiently and quickly as a fixed-wing aircraft, even in rain and wind.
Wingcopter’s investors include REWE Group, Salvia, XAI technologies, Xplorer Capital, Futury Capital, ITOCHU, DRONE FUND, SYNERJET, Expa, Hessen Kapital III, and Corecam Capital Partners.
About ZAL GmbH
The ZAL Center for Applied Aeronautical Research in Hamburg is one of the world’s most modern research facilities for aviation. On a total area of more than 26,000 m², the research center offers 600 employees from over thirty industrial and scientific organizations the most advanced infrastructures for joint research and development.
The heart of the research center is the ZAL GmbH team of about 60 people. Its task is to create the ideal conditions for applied aviation research. This includes the operation of the ZAL TechCenter as well as the provision of research facilities or events. In addition, a dedicated Research & Technology team of 40 scientists and engineers work on research and innovation projects and support partners to develop technological solutions.