Matternet has been developing its unique drone delivery system for almost a decade, focusing heavily on how it can use the technology to transport medicines and medical samples between health facilities.
The California-based company has been investing much effort and money in creating a highly autonomous system, leading to this week’s unveiling of the cool-looking Matternet Station.
Seemingly grabbed from the props department of a sci-fi movie that never got made, the elaborately designed dock acts as a departure and arrival point for deliveries using Matternet’s custom-built M2 quadcopter. The station stands at a height of about three meters and can be installed on the ground as well as on a roof.
The video (below) shows the system in action. After taking a blood sample from a patient, the health worker enters the relevant delivery information into Matternet’s cloud-based platform. She then takes the sample to the drone station and places it inside a small chamber that she unlocks with her ID. The sample is then automatically attached to the drone.
Seconds later, the top of the station opens up like a blooming flower to reveal the drone and its consignment. The rotors start spinning and off it flies to its destination, in this case a lab seven miles away. The receiving station guides the drone in before closing its “petals” to secure the flying machine and its special delivery. The recipient then receives a notification to let them know it’s arrived.
What we can’t see is the drone having its battery automatically swapped so that it can embark on its next trip on full power.
Matternet’s system is efficient, fast, and looks darn cool, too. The autonomous flying machine at its core can fly pretty much anything as long as it fits in the box and doesn’t exceed its maximum payload weight of 4.4 pounds (2 kg).
The company has already been testing its platform at health facilities in Raleigh, North Carolina, and San Diego, California, in partnership with UPS. Swiss Post has also used it in trials, though a couple of incidents in 2019 forced Matternet to suspend operations while it investigated what went wrong. Flights with Swiss Post have since resumed.
“Our vision is to connect every healthcare facility in every metropolitan area with the fastest transportation method available today,” Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO of Matternet, said in a release. “We are building the technology platform for extremely fast, point-to-point, urban medical delivery, enabling hospital systems to shrink patient waiting times and save millions of dollars per year through the centralization of laboratories and medical inventory.”
Raptopoulos added: “The Matternet Station is a very important part of the ecosystem for making this vision a reality.”
Matternet’s system can be used by health care facilities for an annual subscription, and the station will be installed at its first hospital in the coming months.