Swoop Aero’s drones hit one million items shipped as company raised money for expansion businessupdates.org

by Ana Lopez

Where vans and big cargo planes don’t make much sense, drones proliferate – they may never deliver your burrito, but could soon become indispensable for transporting medicines and emergency supplies. Australian drone logistics company Dive Aero celebrates new milestones and funding as it plans its expansion into more markets.

Swoop has spent the past three years transporting and delivering medical supplies – medicines and items such as samples for laboratories – in Southern Malawi, DR Congo and other locations, recently delivering its one millionth item and completing its 20,000th flight.

This success led to USAID award of $1.5 million to Swoop, which will partially drive the company’s expansion into the rest of the country. That’s in addition to a just-announced $10 million addition — from latecomer Levitate Capital — to the $16 million Series B from earlier this year.

CEO Eric Peck told businessupdates.org that the company was born when he, formerly an Air Force officer, met his co-founder, a roboticist, and they both wondered if autonomous aircraft could actually play a role in today’s complex logistics world. The answer was clearly yes, but the segment they found practical was not the urban segment.

“The misconception is that we’re going to replace every truck and car — what really matters is the integration of air transportation into the logistics infrastructure that exists now,” Peck said. For a typical delivery driver serving a large area, “if we do their 30 hard-to-reach locations, we can halve the miles they have to travel by road.”

In the end, they designed and built their own plane from scratch: a mid-sized electric UAV that can fly up to 100 miles with a 10-pound payload, land vertically, and uses parts so easily interchangeable that it can be converted from a cargo to an airplane . a scientific or rescue vessel within minutes. They are also all powered by off-grid energy: solar energy and anything else that can be placed in a given location.

Exploded view of a Swoop drone showing its modular parts.

Swoop’s strategy is to have a presence on the ground and bring a number of aircraft online to meet a very specific need. “When you are a minister of a country, be it Austrialia or Malawi, you say ‘we want to be able to do 300 high priority deliveries per month.’ We aim for a cost point, but also 10x the service level. Like a hospital pick up once a month, we would do every day. It can have a huge impact,” says Peck.

Once up and running, the company will be able to expand the fleet and diversify its customers and service. Turns out there’s a lot of latent demand for things like power line inspections, mapping and monitoring, wildfire detection, and disaster relief. Oftentimes, something that requires you to charter a helicopter ride for a fraction of the price can be done by a drone.

The company learned as it grew: the plane itself has gone through five generations as they’ve seen it in use and received feedback from customers. And it’s not at all clear exactly how you’re supposed to start building a state-of-the-art, renewable energy-powered public-private drone subsidiary in any country, let alone a dozen countries across the globe. whole world.

Image Credits: Dive Aero

“There is still a lot to learn about how to actually use a logistics point for drones. The capital is focused on R&D, learning to deploy at scale, how to produce the aircraft at scale,” Peck explained.

Where they’ve landed is about an 80/20 split between running their own networks and leasing the aircraft to other operators. They’ve learned to cut costs where necessary – landing zones are “usually a big QR code on the ground held with sandbags” and being able to charge and reuse aircraft quickly and cheaply was key, hence the modular build.

The company is now working with various partners, both private and government, to expand. Peck said they plan to raise another $40 million round to build out ten new networks, including in the US, where regulations are tight. The plan is to first deliver the technology to existing players (think UPS and specialist medical transport companies, etc.), but it is clear that the needs of countries around the world are fundamentally similar.

A few states would certainly welcome assistance with wildfire monitoring and infrastructure inspection. Hell, with great whites back in New England they might want to take advantage of Swoop’s shark patrol services.

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