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Financial Times Tech Champions Winner 2023 in the Logistics Category

Windracers have been awarded the winner for the logistics category in the Financial Times Champions Report 2023.

Stephen Wright, co-founder and executive chair of UK drone maker Windracers, says its machines could be a solution in countries affected by conflicts. He also thinks they have the potential to transform transportation in other developing nations. “There are huge challenges to the delivery of humanitarian aid in emergency situations,” Wright says, “ranging from the issues of security to environmental conditions. [The areas] where the aid is required don’t have the transportation infrastructure that we have in western Europe or North America.”

The company believes its autonomous drones could be used for multiple purposes, including the delivery of mail, bypassing the need for a road network. Windracers’ drones can carry a load weighing 100kg as far as 1,000km, but the focus is on “the middle mile, so that’s 50km to 500km,” explains Wright. As well as mail, the company sees potential roles in sectors including defence, humanitarian aid, firefighting and academic research. “We’ve developed and tested a drop mechanism [and] that’s going to give us the capability to start doing the delivery of humanitarian aid,” says Wright.

Windracers is talking to the World Food Programme and the International Civil Aviation Organization — a UN agency that helps align air regulations worldwide — about using its drones for humanitarian aid in Somalia and Mozambique, he notes.

The company has already secured £30mn through funding and grants, and will be seeking further growth investment next year. It has 60 full-time employees in the UK and 50 at its offshore manufacturing hub, in India.

So far, the drones have been deployed by organisations including the British Antarctic Survey and the Royal Navy. BAS is using them to carry sensors for collecting scientific data across Antarctica. The partnership between Windracers and BAS has been funded by technology support agency Innovate UK’s £300mn Future Flight Challenge. It is part of a pilot programme that aims to show how drone technology can be used to gather environmental data.

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Note to Editors

About Windracers 

Windracers provides the capability to deliver essential logistics to the people and places that need them, anywhere and everywhere, anytime, every time. Powered by our autopilot technology Masterless™, Windracers’ highly reliable long-range drones fly without the need of a pilot, delivering an autonomous solution from engines on to engines off and offering high utilization and scalability. The robust and cost-effective ULTRA (Uncrewed Low-cost TRAnsport) platform can carry 100 kg up to 1,000 km and has Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capability. With a flexible payload, Windracers Group provides solutions across four sectors: Mail & Parcel, Humanitarian Assistance, Defence and Environmental Protection.   

The ground-breaking autopilot system Masterless™ has been developed and patented by Distributed Avionics, part of the Windracers Group, to bring greater efficiency and safety. Masterless™ control was designed in line with the company’s Zero Single Point of Failure philosophy, meaning that no single flight computer is directly controlling the aircraft, so if any component should fail or produce false data, the aircraft will still fly safely.  

Windracers is a leading cargo drone operator. With notable achievements such as the first BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) autonomous drone flight in the UK, it is a pioneer in this field. Holding more BVLOS permissions than any other operator, Windracers has successfully completed challenging flight trials in remote locations, amassed extensive operational flying time and worked with organizations including the MOD, British Antarctic Survey and Royal Mail. 

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