Delivering our online orders and groceries are one application of drone technology, but while that’s still farther off than we may like, it should be noted that drones are already being used for deliveries in other areas, such as moving blood and other medical resources between hospitals.
Matternet is one such company providing this service in Switzerland, even though it’s based out of California. Matternet built its own drone base station to automate ground operations as well as air traffic, and they’re currently testing their drone network throughout the country.
As explained by Wired, packages are placed in a shoebox-size storage container, then scanned using a QR reader. The package is then transferred to one of Matternet’s drones, and the delivery begins. According to the company, the drones can travel about 12 miles while carrying around 4 pounds, and are capable of finding the safest path through the air — they use the same airspace as emergency helicopters and constantly broadcast their locations.
Prior to the introduction of the drones, hospitals would use third-party couriers to get supplies around. The problem with that, however, was price and trustworthiness.
“We have a vision of a distributed network, not hub and spoke, but true peer-to-peer,” says Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos.
Zipline is another company using drones to deliver medical supplies to remote health workers in Rwanda and Tanzania, starting in 2018. Workers text their order to the company, who then prepare the items before sending them off. Within fifteen minutes, the drone will drop the package attached to a parachute, with the worker being notified throughout the entire process.
Going forward, Matternet has plans to expand beyond remote locations. The company wants to bring their drone network to more populated areas in Switzerland before the end of 2017, then branch out to the rest of Europe, followed by the U.S. and Japan. If everything goes well, the California-based company hopes more people will use their drones. The speed of their deliveries will be a huge benefit to those requiring medical attention, and knowing help is quickly on the way could provide some much needed solace amidst traumatic injuries.