At last, a full-fledged drone delivery operation that has passed the trial stage and gained permission to deliver items in densely populated urban areas.
OK, this particular service isn’t aimed at internet shoppers, but its imminent launch at least shows that the platform is edging toward wider use and acceptance in a range of applications.
Silicon Valley, California-based startup Matternet has been developing its drone delivery system in Switzerland in partnership with Swiss Post, and will launch an autonomous drone delivery network there next month.
Instead of flying pizza to hungry residents, or bringing books and other items to online shoppers, Matternet has focused its efforts on medicine, designing a system that will help carry vital supplies such as blood and pathology samples between labs and hospitals.
It’s notable for two reasons. First, Matternet’s delivery platform has gone beyond the trial stage, with full-time operation set to launch in October. And second, the company has been given approval to fly its drones over populated areas. Yes, this is the kind of authorization that Amazon and similar outfits are desperate to receive for drone deliveries in the U.S. However, the Federal Aviation Administration still needs some convincing that flying autonomous drones over urban areas is safe.
The company unveiled a vital part of its technology — the Matternet Station — in a video posted on Wednesday, September 20. This is a fixed docking station located at the start and finish of the drone’s journey, ensuring secure and accurate delivery to a safe, clean environment, with the recipient able to access the consignment by scanning a QR code.
“With the Matternet Station, we’re introducing an extremely easy-to-use interface that enables true peer-to-peer drone delivery,” CEO Andreas Raptopoulos said. “For healthcare systems, an integrated Matternet network means that medical items can be delivered to any hospital facility within 30 minutes. This level of speed and predictability creates substantial opportunities for improved quality of care and operational savings.”
Matternet’s autonomous M2 drone can carry a package weighing up to 4.4 pounds over a maximum distance of 12 miles, flying at around 40 mph.
Swiss Post’s Nathalie Derobert Fellay told Digital Trends earlier this year that drones were an efficient way of moving supplies from A to B: “Instead of having transportation on the road, where you may be stuck in traffic for a long period of time, transportation by drone is significantly faster. It’s also better for the patient because we can run it 24 hours a day.”
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