Drone delivery company Aerialoop is growing rapidly in Latin America by offering middle-mile food, parcel and medical shipments in some of the region’s most congested urban areas.

The company has had such success in replacing motorbike couriers in the city of Quito that it has now become the biggest commercial air operator in Ecuador.

Speaking to FINN, Santiago Barrera, Aerialoop’s COO, said the company’s drones were flying 50 to 60 journeys per day in Quito. Aerialoop also has permits to operate in Honduras, Uruguay and Colombia.

“It’s like a metro system,” he explained. “In a city of 3 million people like Quito, we have five different airports and then we just fly between them. We found this to make sense because the permits are easier if you’re asking for a fixed route, which we have control over, without deviating to different houses and different places like most of the companies are trying to do when they do last mile delivery.”

He added: “Our busiest airport in Quito is right in the centre of the city, and it’s located in the backyard of one of the largest hospitals. It’s a public airport for our use, we send medicine out and we get some laboratory samples back for them. They’re one of our customers, but at the same time, it’s a key location for our other verticals.”

In Colombia, Aerialoop is working with petroleum companies to build a similar network of fixed airports from which to transport food and other payloads, such as cameras and equipment. The company started test flights at the start of October.

In Honduras, Aerialoop has established a presence on the island of Roatan. “There are apartment building developments, and we’re putting our airports on the roof and are connecting these apartments that are in this paradise part of the island where you would otherwise be an hour and a half away from the local restaurants,” he said.

“Now, these people are actually sold the apartment saying ‘Look, you’re going be in the middle of paradise, but you’re going to have a drone-port that you can order food from the mainland’.” The apartment building project should be up and running by December, he said.

Working with major Latin American delivery firms such as Rappi and Servientrega is giving Aerialoop a foothold in a vast and lucrative logistics market.

Aerialoop is focusing on urban rather than rural environments for their drone shipments in order to serve the greatest number of people, said Barrera.

“We wanted to have a social, environmental and economic impact in these cities. When you develop a solution for major cities, you’re impacting 60% of the world rather than when you go and do more rural operations,” he said.

“We calculated that when we scale our operation to the numbers we think we can scale, we will be reducing traffic in Quito by up to 5%. The city is working with us because they spend millions of dollars per year to reduce traffic. And the way they do it is with public transportation, highways. Now we’re becoming one other solution to do that, because we’re removing these motorcycle deliveries.”
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