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Technology

In Development: Networks of Unmanned Quadcopters to Ferry Medicine to Isolated Areas

80beatsBy Valerie RossAugust 30, 2011 10:11 PM

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matternet.jpg

Matternet's design for a Medical Aid Quadcopter

What's the News: Many of the unmanned aerial vehicles we hear about are flying off to war

, laden with weapons or surveillance equipment. The tech start-up Matternet

, however, is designing small quadcopter UAVs to carry peaceable payloads, delivering medical supplies and other necessities to areas dangerous or difficult to reach by road. How the Heck:

The Future Holds:

  • The immediate applications, the company says, will be in public health, carrying drugs, diagnostic tests, tissue samples, and other medical supplies to and from areas isolated by poor roads, seasonal flooding, or natural disasters. As an example, Matternet points to Lesotho---a country with high rates of HIV where many people live prohibitively far from clinics.

  • Matternet plans to start out with simple point-to-point transport, as the contents of the kits suggest: one quadcopter ferrying supplies between two landing pads. In phase two of Matternet's development, extra stations will enable the UAVs to venture farther afield, letting them fly not simply between two points but throughout a network. In phase three, the company hopes, distinct networks will overlap, creating one larger, interconnected network in which material goods can be transported long distances by UAV. The company plans to keep making the UAVs bigger and stronger, too, so that they can carry more than 2,000 pounds by phase three. They're hoping the system will prove useful not just for clinics, but for governments, business owners, and parcel delivery systems.

Image courtesy of Matternet and Cyber Technology (WA) Pty/Ltd

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