Andreas and Paola met at Singularity University and brought two very different perspectives to one goal: to create a smart, automated delivery network.
Today their company, Matternet, has tested deliveries where roads are long, windy and very bumpy, where taking the short route is not only desirable, it’s necessary.
We went to meet the Matternet team in their lab at Menlow Park.
SANTANA: I’m from the Dominican Republic and I’m a lawyer, I was very passionate about learning how I could use technology to apply into government to make it more efficient and more transparent, and see how we could accelerate impact in the world. Basically because governments worldwide are this big machinery that can implement policies to a large amount of people. Then, in Singularity University I won a scholarship to go there and study for 3 months with astronauts, engineers, intrapeneurs, doctors and what I discovered in singularity was a new world of exponential technologies that doesn’t only accelerate the path in which you can do something, it totally transforms the way you see the world and the way you do things because that is what technology does the best. I met Andreas that is my co founder today in Matternet and he had come with the original concept of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAV’s to create networks of these flying vehicles and do transportation. Especially in places with no road infrastructure or in places where the roads don’t really work. It related to me especially because I saw the potential to leapfrog all the decision making that has to be done. Traditionally by government so when you put in comparison these two processes going to congress, passing a law saying okay we’re going to invest fifty million dollars into building this road it is a political decision. It is not connected to improving the life of the people that is there especially if these people doesn’t have a vote, doesn’t have a voice in their every day. I don’t have to go through that process because there is a technology that we can put into the hands of everybody that just leapfrog all that process and just can connect these people, it’s very efficient very reliable and is a real 21st century solution to a problem that has been in the world forever. This is a little flying vehicle, it’s called Quadcopter because it has 4 propellers it only has 4 moving parts, those 4 motors are 4 propellers. Everything else is electronics and a battery. And we believe it’s going to be the new, the next paradigm of transportation A truly 21st century solution transportation So this is Michelangelo yes, we’ve built a handful of those vehicles, around ten and we took them out to very extreme locations to test them. We were in a country called Bhutan up in the Himalayas And tested this with the government there, the ministry of Health to help them do deliveries between central hospitals and basic health units that may be 50 or 100 km away. And the way to get it, to go that far, is by having intermediate points where you can automatically land, swap the battery and go out again. So we are creating a network where they can actually have those devices autonomously landing and taking off and in that way creating little aerial bridges, between the places This only part of the system what you see here. The vehicle has a small computer that is connected to the internet. We have developed a cloud system that is giving instructions to the vehicle for what it should be doing. Where it should be taking off from, when it should be taking off and what is the route it should be taking, in order to go to another location. Andreas can we get Michelangelo to fly over to those rocks? Absolutely so you will now instruct Michelangelo to fly between the two places. And now we are going to see him taking off. It’s astounding! I’ts taking off! Oh that is so cool. The cost of energy carrying a payload of maybe a kilogram, over a distance of about 20 km is spectacular, it’s only close to 2 cents.