Autonomous drones deliver lab results in Switzerland

Matternet drone

You know how healthcare facilities often need lab results and in some cases they can’t get them in the nearby (or same) building. Then, the hospital or clinic in question is forced to ask for assistance of a dedicated laboratory, which often takes time.

Menlo Park, California-based logistics company Matternet is looking to tackle that problem with a novel solution; the company has announced a permanent autonomous drone network in Switzerland to make it easier for hospitals, clinics, and labs to fly lab samples between facilities. The first delivery network will be operational from next month, with several more launching in 2018, enabling interested parties to get samples like blood tests within 30 minutes.

Matternet was granted what they say is the “world’s first” authorization to operate a drone network over densely populated areas in Switzerland in March. Now they have officially unveiled the Matternet Station; a 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.

“These types of diagnostics that need to be transported are urgent in nature and they are on demand,” Andreas Raptopoulos co-founder and CEO of Matternet told The Verge. “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 system is operated through a mobile app from where shipment details are created. Items are placed into a compartment box in the station before being loaded into a drone for delivery. Packages are then flown to another Matternet station, where receivers can obtain their package by scanning a QR code. Also when a drone lands, it swaps out its battery to keep it charged.

Each drone in the network can hold up to 2kg (4.4 pounds), has a maximum distance of 20km (12.4 miles) depending on weather conditions, and cruises at speeds of 70 kilometers per hour (43.5 miles per hour).

Initially, Matternet plans to operate one to two drones per network, and even if/when new drones are deployed, they won’t be colliding with one another due to the “automated aerial deconfliction system” that manages drone traffic over the station.

Going forward, Matternet sees its stations at grocery stores and gas stations for deliveries. In addition, after Switzerland – the company want to tackle Germany and the UK.