MatterNet Aims to be Quadrotor-Based Pony Express
Here in the U.S., we take for granted the ability to quickly and easily obtain medicine. Hospitals and pharmacies are nearly ubiquitous, and where they are sparse the Postal Serivce is able to pick up most of the slack. In countries with wide expanses of rural wilderness, some of which become inaccessible by road during rainy seasons, obtaining medical supplies is far, far tricker. That’s where MatterNet and its quadrotor delivery bots come in.
Much as the Pony Express provided (albeit briefly) delivery services to the American frontier, MatterNet hopes to form a network of automated delivery robots can help bring small cargos to outlying regions in developing countries. On their own, the ruggedized quadrotors can carry a 4-pound cargo some 6 miles. Once in the field, the robotic courriers would use GPS beacons to home in on their targets to deliver medicine, or medical testing supplies.
Of course, 4 pounds over six miles is not impressive on its own. MatterNet plans on extending their delivery range by establishing remote, solar-powered recharging stations. Quadrotors could dock on these stations, recharge, and continue on their merry way. The short-term goal is to begin providing delivery service with a few bots servicing a relatively small area, but that’s just the beginning.
Once in the field, MatterNet aims to establish delivery networks, and then link those networks into a network of networks. The analog they use is the Internet, hence the name: MatterNet, a network of matter. The hope is that the quadcoptors will be able to work together, expanding the range and capability of the system. Because the control systems are platform-agnostic, it could open the door for longer flying fixed-wing drones as part of mixed-robot logistics network.
Where MatterNet will go from here is still uncertain. The company is just starting out, hoping to begin work as a “last mile” delivery service. While untested in the field, the company has a bold plan and believes that the time has come for roadless delivery anywhere in the world.