ITOCHU Announces Medical Devices Transportation Proof of Concept Using the Latest eVTOL Drone “Wingcopter 198” from Germany

Significantly Reducing Transportation Time with the First Drone Transportation Across Uchiura Bay in Hokkaido

June 24, 2024

ITOCHU Corporation (Headquartered in Minato-ku, Tokyo; Keita Ishii, President & COO; hereinafter “ITOCHU”) announced that ITOCHU has conducted a proof of concept transporting medical devices across Uchiura Bay in Hokkaido using drones. This marks the first time a drone has crossed Uchiura Bay in Japan.

In Japan, the Aviation Act was amended in December 2022 to legalize Level 4 flights*, significantly expanding the potential applications for drones. Medical devices, due to their nature, require both urgency and punctuality in transportation. Society is facing the challenges of maintaining logistics infrastructure and personnel, and ensuring that products can be supplied stably to remote islands, to mountainous areas, and during events foreseen in business continuity planning (BCP) scenarios. The potential of drone usage to enable the fully automated high-speed transportation of medical devices and address these challenges is significant.

This proof of concept was conducted jointly with Takeyama Co., Ltd. (Headquarters: Sapporo City, Hokkaido; President: Takuya Tsuchida, hereinafter "Takeyama"), Drone University (Headquartered in Minato-ku, Tokyo; Representative Director: Shingo Nagura, hereinafter "Drone University"), and in cooperation with AIR WINGS LLC (Headquarters: Edogawa-ku, Tokyo; Representative: Kenta Hayashi, hereinafter "AIR WINGS"). In the proof of concept, latest eVTOL drone Wingcopter 198 manufactured by Wingcopter GmbH in Germany was used to transport medical devices for acute cerebral thrombectomies provided by Takeyama. ITOCHU signed a capital and business alliance and a sales agency agreement with Wingcopter GmbH in March 2022. By crossing Uchiura Bay by air from Shiomi Park (Itanki Beach) in Muroran City to Mori Town (Port Mori) in Kayabe District, a distance that usually takes over 2 hours by land, the transportation was completed in as little as approximately 28 minutes.

ITOCHU has establish its new The Brand-New Deal: Profit Opportunities are Shifting Downstream management policy, aiming to fulfill the increasingly diverse needs of sellers, buyers and the public in response to the change of society. Leveraging this demonstration test, ITOCHU will build a drone delivery network using the high-performance Wingcopter 198 eVTOL drone, aiming to fulfill the diverse needs of society and address the diverse issues faced by society.

  • *Level 4 flights (flights beyond visual line of sight in populated areas)
    Unmanned aircraft (drone) flights over populated areas, such as urban centers, without constant visual monitoring.

Roles of each company in the project

ITOCHU Coordination of the demonstration experiment, provision of equipment and operation
Takeyama Provision of medical device and related guidance
Drone University Training regarding the operation of unmanned aerial vehicle operator certification
AIR WINGS Operational support

Transportation route image

Reference: Drone specifications

Manufacturer: Wingcopter GmbH, Germany
Model Wingcopter 198
Max. load 4.5 kg
Wind resistance 15 m/s average wind, 20 m/s gusts
Cruising speed (standard) 90 km/h
Maximum flight distance 110 km
Dimensions (L x W x H) 167 x 198 x 66 cm
Maximum take-off weight 24.9 kg
Aircraft Features: ・Unique tilt-rotor mechanism (patented) not used by other companies combining the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and hovering capabilities of multicopters with the high-speed long-distance flight characteristics of fixed-wing aircraft.
・Capable of vertical takeoff and landing, eliminating the need for additional takeoff and landing infrastructure while retaining fixed-wing flight characteristics.
・Capable of fully autonomous flight.
・Pursuit of redundant design compliant with aircraft safety requirements, aiming to obtain type certification by aviation authorities worldwide.
・On March 28, 2024, Wingcopter became the first foreign manufacturer to submit an application for the first-class type certification of its fixed wing drone to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.