Future: Drones to deliver mail

Drones could soon be delivering everything  from post to drugs using a vast international network, a US firm has  claimed.

Matternet, a Silicon Valley startup, has  already trialled the drone network in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where  they were able to fly for six miles carrying a 2kg payload.

The firm now hopes to expand with an  ambitious plan to replace existing delivery systems and set up a global network  of ‘drone routes’ for the gadgets, which can automatically fly  themselves.

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You've got drone-mail: The US startup hopes to initially use the network to deliver drugs and other supplies to third world countries

You’ve got drone-mail: The US startup hopes to initially  use the network to deliver drugs and other supplies to third world  countries

HOW IT WORKS

The matternet drones are entirely automated,  and will be backed up by a network of ‘hubs’ on the ground rather like post  offices.

These hubs would let the drones pick up and  drop of packages, and also recharge their batteries before continuing to the  next  station.

Control of the drones and the assignment of  packages for delivery would eventually be handled by an automated operating  system, Matternet says, and orders or requests could  be placed and paid  for by mobile phone.

The firm hopes to set up recharging base  stations for the drones so they can stop and recharge themselves along the way.

Currently the firm has drones that can travel  six miles and carry 2kg, but has plans for larger drones with a longer  range.

The firm hopes the system will be used  initially in rural areas or countries where there is no established road  network.

‘The easiest way to describe what we are  doing is to compare how  mobile telephony has taken off in the developing  world,’ Matternet  founder and CEO, Andreas Raptopoulos told  CNN.

‘(We want) to leapfrog the traditional modes  of transportation  infrastructure in a similar way and bring items through these  unmanned  aerial vehicles (UAVs) to people who may otherwise be cut off or  isolated,’

So far, Matternet have reached the stage of  running  trials of ‘quadrocopter’  drones, which took place in Haiti and the Dominican  Republic last  year.

The firm has ambitious plans.

‘We are creating the next paradigm for  transportation using a network of unmanned aerial vehicles,’ it  says.the  next paradigm for transportation using a network of unmanned aerial  vehicles

Urban drones: the delivery systems could eventually be used in cities around the world to automatically deliver packages

Urban drones: the delivery systems could eventually be  used in cities around the world to automatically deliver packages

The potential applications, the firm  says,include delivery of medicines to disconnected areas, enabling farmers to  supply products directly to customers and providing vital materials to areas cut  off by natural disasters.

If the initial trials are a success, a  version for cities could also be built, allowing existing couriers to be  replaced by unmanned drones flying through the sky.

The firm also believes the system could be  relatively cheap, and according to CNN, a  Matternet case study of the Maseru district of Lesotho, put the price of a  network of 50 base-stations and 150 drones at just $900,000.

An artist's impression of how Matternet's drone network could expand across Africa to offer deliveries to remote areas using base stations

An artist’s impression of how Matternet’s drone network  could expand across Africa to offer deliveries to remote areas using base  stations

The prototype design for a Matternet drone, showing a large cargo carrying area in red, and six rotor blades to keep it in the air

The prototype design for a Matternet drone, showing a  large cargo carrying area in red, and six rotor blades to keep it in the  air


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