- UAV startup Matternet has partnered with industry giants to spearhead the automation of package delivery for medical and consumer purposes.
Industry giants in the world of automotive, aerospace and shipping are partnering with the Menlo Park-based startup, Matternet, to develop autonomous aerial drones used for delivering packages in urban environments.
Among the stakeholders are UPS, Mercedes-Benz, BOEING and more are hoping to jump into the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) delivery technology. Matternet has already launched its package delivery services in Zurich, Switzerland in 2015 and as of March 2019, launched a pilot program to deliver medical tests samples in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The M2 Quadcopter can carry loads of about 5 pounds for 12.5 miles on each battery charge. It can complete a flight in about three minutes, versus the 30 or so it takes human drivers to make it in average daily traffic. It also has the ability to select its own battery at soon-to-be placed Matternet stations to enable it to travel longer distances.
CONCEPCTION AND UNIQUE APPLICATIONS:
Matternet was conceptualized as a means to deliver medical supplies to remote and inhospitable regions of the world. Their recently announced partnership with UPS is centralized on the ability to transport medical samples on an on-demand basis to improve patient experience. This project is being held in North Carolina with the participation of WakeMed Hospitals and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Prior to that, Matternet has been testing the delivery of medical supplies under various weather conditions in Haiti, Bhutan, the Dominical Republic and Papua New Guinea. One of their more prominent ventures is their partnership with UNICEF in testing out the ability to deliver HIV testing supplies to rural areas of Africa.
With the ability to bypass traffic and travel past where ground vehicles are not able to go, the Matternet drone will be able to provide lifesaving medical items to hard-to-reach locations. In an article written by CEO Andreas Raptopoulos, he said, “Just as cell phone networks have leapfrogged the wired Internet in some places, on-demand delivery could leapfrog the limitations of ground-based infrastructure.”
Other application of the M2 Quadcopter is distributing e-commerce goods faster by pairing it with Merced-Benz “Vision Vans”. The idea is the Mercedes-Benz Vision Van, which has an autonomous package sorting technology, will be paired up with M2 Quadcopters. When an order takes place through an e-commerce platform, one of the drones will deploy and deliver the package from one of the vans nearby. This allows consumers to receive their goods instantly. This program is currently being run in Zurich, Switzerland and has since been expanded to Berne.
Boeing HorizonX Ventures led a $16 million funding round for Matternet in June 2018 to expand its operations in the U.S. and abroad. Brian Schettler, managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures, said, “Matternet’s technology and proven track record make the development of a safe, global autonomous air mobility system a near-term reality.” Other investors that followed suit include Swiss Post, Sony Innovation Fund and Levitate Capital. Since its formation in 2014, Matternet has raised $25 million to date.
The drone market is currently on a high speed rise. According to Bloomberg, It is currently estimated to be worth $2 billion, with the expectation that it will go up to 127 billion by 2020.
With Matternet leading the drone movement, it’s exciting to see the different markets drones can be applied to and if it will be part of every city’s mainstream sceneries.