Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) sure are fighting the good fight these days. Just this week, we learned how Libyan rebels used a surveillance drone to dethone a dictator. Now comes news of an UAV that could potentially help deliver essential supplies to remote villages in Africa.
Matternet, a Silicon Valley startup based out of Singularity University has a proposal on the table to create a network of ground stations for UAVs which could deliver medicine and other essential goods in isolated communities that are inaccessible by roads.
Matternet is currently developing electric quadrocopters that can carry a 2.2 pound load for 1.9 miles. That doesn't sound like much now, but consider the team's target range: 6.2 miles with a capacity to carry up to 2,205 pounds.
The company envisions reaching villages outside the 6.2 mile range by having ground stations located in villages, where trained locals could replace weak batteries with those that have been charging in a solar-powered charger. That way, the quadrocopters could hopscotch from village to village.
"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."
A set-up kit, including one electric quadrocopter and two ground stations, would retail for around $2,500 and likely be subsidised by NGOs or goverment agencies. Matternet maintains thats operating costs would be similar to those of a motorcycle.