Drones May One Day Deliver To Remote Locations
June 2, 2013

California Company Proposing Drone Delivery Network For Underdeveloped Areas

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While drones have been making headlines recently for their military capabilities, a Silicon Valley start-up is reportedly looking to use the technology to deliver medicine and other items to remote areas or locations with poor roads, according to various media reports published this weekend.

Palo Alto, California-based Matternet, which was founded by a quartet of Singularity University fundamental business concepts students — Andreas Raptopoulos, Paola Santana, Dimitar Pachov and Darlene Damm — has already tested their drones in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, according to Mark Prigg of the Daily Mail.

During those trials, Matternet´s drone network was able to fly a distance of six miles while carrying a payload weighing nearly 4.5 pounds, Prigg said. The company now hopes to expand their operations, ultimately establishing a global network of delivery routes and using their auto-flying drones to replace current delivery systems.

According to CNN´s Eoghan Macguire, the company is hopeful that their drone network will be able to reach rural and under-developed places that have little or no access to highways or other types of infrastructure.

“The easiest way to describe what we are doing is to compare how mobile telephony has taken off in the developing world,” Raptopoulos, Matternet´s founder and CEO, told Macguire. “(We want) to leapfrog the traditional modes of transportation infrastructure in a similar way and bring items through these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to people who may otherwise be cut off or isolated.”

The vehicles would be aided by a ground network of “strategically positioned hubs” that would allow the drones to recharge their batteries every few miles en route to their ultimate destination, company officials explained to CNN.

Both the operation of the machines and the process used to assign delivery packages would eventually be handled by an automated operating system, allowing requests to be made and paid for via smartphone. Furthermore, the network could be extremely cost-effective. For example, the firm estimates that creating 150 drones and 50 base stations in the Maseru district of Lesotho would cost less than one million dollars.

“The potential applications, the firm says, include delivery of medicines to disconnected areas, enabling farmers to supply products directly to customers and providing vital materials to areas cut off by natural disasters,” Prigg explained. “If the initial trials are a success, a version for cities could also be built, allowing existing couriers to be replaced by unmanned drones flying through the sky.”