Drone delivery is a logistics innovation that has been in the works ever since modern-day drones were made possible. As of now, several companies like Alphabet, Amazon, Zipline, etc. are testing out their solutions. An end-to-end drone delivery system is not far away. A California-based company Matternet, has managed to create such a drone delivery solution that is operational in not one but two countries.
Matternet: An On-Demand Drone Delivery Service
While a mass scale application will take time, Matternet has its drones deployed in Switzerland and the United States. Recently, the company launched a new automated drone delivery station in the US. The automated station marks a huge step forward in drone delivery. The station has useful applications predominantly in the healthcare industry.
The delivery chain consists of two large pods that house the drones. A delivery package is placed in the hatch of one pod. The package is loaded onto the drone. The roof of the pod opens and the drone takes off. Upon reaching the receiver pod, the roof opens to accommodate the drone and the delivered package can be collected through a similar hatch. The pods charge and monitor the drone’s health. This entire system operates autonomously on proprietary software. The cloud software handles customer requests, generates flight routes, monitors, and commands all the operating drones.
The M2 Drone
Meet the drone that powers the entire operation. The M2 drone is a delivery drone that transports cargo for up to 20 km (12 miles). It can carry a maximum payload of 2 kg (4.4 lbs). The drone is equipped with features such as automatic payload and battery exchange, autonomous flight, precision landing, and intuitive command control.
The M2 drone is specifically designed to operate with safety around infrastructure and large groups of people. Since the drone only flies over approved airspace and altitudes of 50 – 100 meters, it does not pose any significant threats to manned aircraft.
The practical applications of this technology are limitless. Currently, the solution has been applied in the healthcare industry with success. Transporting clinical samples, and medical equipment from one hospital to the other can save a lot of time. This could also pave for organ transportation through drones. An end-to-end solution like Matternet’s station could revolutionize the healthcare industry.
However, E-commerce has a long way to go. While E-commerce drone deliveries have already begun in many parts of the world, the sheer volume of logistics required is overwhelming. Conventionally, delivery trucks help in fulfilling this enormous volume of deliveries in a single day. Drones on the other hand would require multiple trips to complete the same number of deliveries which may reduce their efficiency.
But all hope’s not lost. Drone infrastructure along with UTM services could help overcome this hurdle. With developing drone regulations and improved technology, this may become a reality in the next five years. The same cannot be said for passenger drones. While passenger drone operations could begin in remote areas, urban mobility is still further away. Read our analysis on passenger drones to learn more.