The world’s first permanent autonomous drone delivery network (as far as I know) will begin operating in Switzerland in October — transporting various diagnostics material, including blood tests, between various clinics, labs, and hospitals in the region.
The drone network is being put together by the logistics firm Matternet, which claims that the network will allow medical items to be delivered to hospitals in under 30 minutes. Following the beginning of operations for the first network next month, Matternet is aiming to launch several more networks over the next year as well.
The new program in Switzerland is part of a partnership with Swiss Post, which follows on a previous test pilot involving two hospitals in Lugano in Switzerland that Matternet conducted.
The Verge provides more: “Matternet, based in Menlo Park, California, was granted authorization to operate its drones over densely populated areas in Switzerland in March and says that approval was a world first. Today, the company unveiled a Matternet Station; a kind of white, futuristic looking postbox with a footprint measuring about two square meters, that can be installed on rooftops or on the ground to send and receive packages by drone. … Users operate the system via an app to create shipment details. Items are placed into a compartment box in the station before being loaded into a drone for delivery. Currently the drones can hold up to 2 kg (4.4 pounds). Packages are then flown to another Matternet station, where receivers can obtain their package by scanning a QR code.
“After a drone lands, it also swaps out its battery so the drone remains charged. The maximum distance a drone can travel is 20 km (12.4 miles) depending on weather conditions like high winds, and they have cruising speeds of 70 kilometers per hour (43.5 miles per hour). Matternet says initially, about one to two drones will operate per network. Each station features an ‘automated aerial deconfliction system’ that manages drone traffic over the station.”
Speaking about the potential value of such systems, Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos commented: “These types of diagnostics that need to be transported are urgent in nature and they are on demand. They have to wait for a courier, sometimes they get taxis to do this type of thing — and when you have a system like this, that is autonomous and reliable, it completely transforms operations.”
The plan is possibly to roll out services at grocery chains or gas/petrol stations, though, it should be realized — so Matternet is no doubt greatly motivated by money (as one would expect of course) rather than just by the desire to improve operations at healthcare facilities.
The company is reportedly aiming to expand into Germany and the UK once things are running smoothly in Switzerland.
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