The Matternet is a proposed internet-like network, that would allow goods such as medicine to be transported to remote communities via unmanned aerial vehicles
Across Africa, along with other parts of the world, there are many villages that are inaccessible by road for at least part of the year. The only reasonably fast way of getting medicine and other essential goods to these locations is to fly them in by conventional aircraft. Such an approach can be costly, however, and requires the services of a trained pilot. Matternet, a startup company currently based out of Silicon Valley’s Singularity University is proposing an alternative – a network of ground stations for small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which would inexpensively deliver payloads to remote communities.
Matternet is presently in the process of designing the electric quadrocopters that would be used within the system. While they can currently carry a one-kilogram load for three kilometers (2.2 lbs for 1.9 miles), the group’s target range is ten kilometers (6.2 miles) – ultimately, they would also like to see the UAVs able to carry up to 1,000 kilograms (2,205 lbs).
This does not mean, however, that the system would only serve villages within ten kilometers of a city or road. Instead, the UAVs would take off and land from ground stations located in the villages, where local people could swap in batteries that had been charged by a solar-powered charger, along with performing other maintenance. In this way, the vehicles could make their way from village to village, until they reached their destination.
“A good analogy is the Internet,” Matternet’s Justine Lam told Gizmag. “In the same way that the Internet works by transferring packets of information, villages that are far away from roads or cities will receive packets of goods through a network routing system.”
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