First The Internet, Then Smartphones, Now Matternet is The Next Big Innovation
When you hear the word ‘drone,’ you can be forgiven for believing it to be a dirty, military term. However, one entrepreneur is rewriting the rules and changing the word's meaning to define a force for good.
Andreas Raptopoulos is the CEO of Matternet, a two-year-old start up founded by Andreas and three of his friends at Singularity University, a Silicon Valley summer school for budding entrepreneurs hoping to solve the world’s greatest challenges with innovative technology.
The technology created by the Matternet team is a fleet of small flying drones that can deliver medicines and other vital supplies to remote areas, providing a cheaper, more efficient alternative to roads. Revolutionising the transport of supplies, Matternet's network of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can carry up to 2kg, taking only 15 minutes per trip without having to recharge or replace its batteries. The plan is to build a network of base stations no more than 10km from each other, with drones carrying packages between them. After arriving at a station, drones can then swap a depleted battery for a charged one, with all routing handled automatically in the same way that direct data is transported across the internet.
Matternet currently has three key technologies – the electric flying vehicles, landing stations and routing software, with Andreas and his team testing prototypes in Haiti and the Dominican Republic last year. Although there are initial costings to set up base stations and drones in selection regions, once this is complete a drone trip costs only 24 cents, an obvious preference to spending millions on building roads to remote locations.
The vision, says Andreas, who is speaking at the Follow the Entrepreneur Summit on 24th May, is that just as mobile phones have changed the lives of those in poorer countries, Matternet’s drone delivery system will provide a similar proposition, spurring growth and development by revolutionising how goods are transported. With Matternet, hospitals are able to send urgent medicines to remote clinics as well as send and receive blood samples. People living in remote areas are also able to make various orders and pay via text message, with suppliers based miles away transporting goods to local matternet stations for airborne dispatch via drone.
For now, the company aims to continue to develop the drones and base stations, as well as the software that will coordinate them. Other challenges include regulatory hurdles, as it is currently illegal in many parts of the world to use autonomous flying vehicles.
However, Matternet hopes that they will be able to sell their technology to government health departments and non-profit groups initially, and state that drones can also be used in the developed world, where an increase in infrastructure couples with overpopulation is causing crippling congestion.
"Our objective is to start with small applications in whichever markets we can access and, over time, build a system that's more cost effective and more reliable," Raptopoulos told Inc.com, who have recently included Matternet in their Top 25 Most Audacious Companies. "In 10 years or so, we'd like to see this used in most places around the world."
To find out more about Matternet, visit http://matternet.us/