which drone delivery company is bigger?

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In a showdown between Zipline vs Wing, two major players in the drone delivery space, which one is bigger? Wing is owned by Alphabet, the company formerly known as Google. So if you’re going off of total company size and access to cash, which Wing has through its relationship with Alphabet, then one might argue it’s Wing that’s the winner.

But by most metrics — especially when you look at Wing as its own company rather than as a subsidiary of Alphabet — there’s another company that’s far larger: Zipline.

Zipline vs Wing
Infographic courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

In a fresh report released today, German-based drone industry analysis company Drone Industry Insights ranked the top companies for drone delivery services, considering metrics including employee size, growth and public attention. And in a showdown of Zipline vs Wing, it’s not the Google-affiliated drone delivery giant that’s the winner. According to DII, the top five drone delivery service providers in 2022 are:

  1. Zipline
  2. Wing
  3. Matternet
  4. Manna
  5. FlyTrex

The news that Zipline beats out Wing might come as a surprise, especially given the enormous interest it seems that large corporations such as Amazon, UPS, or major airlines have shown in the drone industry. Instead, just one company in the top 5 drone delivery companies is backed by big tech. But that’s not actually a bad thing, DII says.

“This is an encouraging sign for the growth of the drone industry on its own and not as a secondary venture by large corporations investing in risky and unproven technologies,” according to a DII memo.

The rankings are also largely similar to the top drone delivery companies of 2021, in which Zipline, Wing and Matternet all came out on top (and in that order).

Specific to Wing, the company does not have more employees than Zipline. In fact, top-ranked Zipline has 3 times more employees than second-place Wing, according to DII.

“This growth has been largely boosted by the $481 million in investment that Zipline has received in the 8 investment deals since its inception,” according to DII. “In short, despite strong and steady growth by other major players, Zipline is the undisputed leader in the drone delivery services market.”

And rather than discuss Zipline vs Wing, it might actually make more sense to pit Wing against Matternet. The two companies have only a 1% gap in the ranking index, meaning that the difference is almost negligible.

Toyota Zipline
Photo courtesy of Zipline

Where are drone delivery companies operating in 2022?

While the top three drone companies are based in the U.S., most of them don’t actually primarily operate in the U.S. So while the U.S. might be big in terms of offering up talent, “the role of the US in terms of operation and influence is not as large as it may initially appear,” according to an analysis from DII.

 Zipline primarily focuses on medical drone deliveries to developing countries. Zipline said that as of March 2022, it had surpassed one million COVID-19 vaccines delivered in Ghana via drone. Zipline continues to invest in the region, this fall announcing a partnership with African e-commerce platform Jumia to use drones to deliver its products (which range from electronics to clothing to beauty products) via drone in Ghana. Zipline plans to expand the Jumia tests elsewhere in Africa.

Many of Wing’s deliveries are happening in Australia, including a project where Wing drones fly merchandise and food from the rooftop of the Grand Plaza Mall in Logan, Australia directly to customers’ homes or other businesses.

Though, there are still U.S. drone deliveries happening. This year, Wing expanded to a suburb of Dallas in a partnership with Walgreens. Flytrex also has operations in Texas. Even Zipline is not ignoring the U.S., with especial focus on its partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, which is a Utah-based, not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, operating in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.

Manna drone delivery Ireland
Photo courtesy of Manna

Other big drone delivery companies to watch in 2023

Zipline is dominating, but there are other companies to look out for. Manna Aero, which is based in Ireland, is rapidly growing, having doubled its employees from last year. Manna launched in 2018 in a small village in Ireland, has since raised over $35 million in venture capital funding, and really took off in Ireland after it began delivering medicines and food in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And while Wing is No. 2, the company just this month announced some major news that could propel it ahead in 2023. Wing partnered with DoorDash to deliver food and other convenience items via drone. this partnership is far unlike most other partnerships we’ve seen to date in the drone delivery space because — unlike most other Wing drone delivery tests, where customers ordered food from businesses through Wing’s app — shoppers for the first time will make their orders through the actual food provider’s app (in this case DoorDash) rather than through the delivery company’s app. For now, the DoorDash tests are pretty small (also happening in Logan, Australia), but they could certainly expand.

In 2023, Wing is also set to expand into Ireland.

Then again, Zipline is still not slowing down. The company recently hired former Tesla CFO Deepak Ahuja.

Rounding out the final spot in the Top Five is Flytrex. Flytrex’s strategy has mostly been partnering with popular food companies to run high-publicity deliveries of their products. Earlier this year, Flytrex ran a partnership with ice cream giant Unilever (the company behind brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Klondike, Magnum ice cream, and Popsicle) to run deliveries in honor of National Ice Cream Day, and more recently it is delivering Charleys Philly Steaks via drone.

See DII’s full report on 2022’s best companies for drone services here.

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