Tag Archive | matternet

Drone Startups part 16: Matternet in Bhutan

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Bhutan is the country viewed by most westerners as an idyllic Shangri-La, squeezed between China and India, on southern slopes of Himalayas. It is the only country in the world that introduced Gross National Happiness index instead of Gross National Product. Yet, by all standards it is not a wealthy country, with the GDP per capita of $7.000. That is perhaps best reflected in poor transport infrastructure, with only around 8.000 km of roads (of which less than 5.000 are paved), being on 140th place in world rankings.

On the other side of the world, in Silicon Valley, a startup is developing a solution for the very same problem Bhutan is facing: how to solve transportation problems when there are no roads or the roads are impassable. Matternet, has been working on this issue for quite some time now. However, due to the very problematic legislation for the UAV in the United States, Matternet was forced to perform its field tests in locations such as Haiti, and more recently, Bhutan.

Matternet in Bhutan

Matternet in Bhutan

The company was contacted by regional World Health Organization (WHO) official, Dr Pem Namgyal who acted upon the request of Bhutanese government, which was interested in using UAV for tackling country’s challenges: the country has 0.3 physicians per 1.000 people, one of the poorest ratios in the world; but the biggest problem was the accessibility, due to the poor road network where an average speed on MAJOR roads is ~10 mph.

Bhutan government with the assistance of WHO has already been dealing with the issue by developing the concept of tele-medicine. The concept is based the use of mobile phones and internet to allow remote medical check-ups. However, the material component of the concept was a major obstacle. There was virtually no way to bypass  road transport over difficult terrain and deliver samples of blood and urine, or to deliver medicaments to remote areas. Until now.

This project is the biggest test for Matternet yet. The startup intends to build a pick-up and delivery network of UAV and ground stations, in order to connect country’s main hospitals and rural communities. Drones that are being used are quadcopters with the payload capacity of 4lbs (~ 2kg), able to fly over the distance of around 10 miles (~ 16 km). The cost of a single vehicle is less than 4.000€. Fleet and ground stations are controlled by the software that would oversee the movement of vehicles.

Matternet in Bhutan

Matternet in Bhutan

The trials included flight from the capital Thimphu to the local hospital at Chamgang, and the feedback from the country seems positive. Matternet’s chief regulatory and strategy officer Paola Santana says that the conditions are less than ideal for drone operations, but that the system worked without any glitches. However, it was not tested in heavy rain of the monsoon season, and it is unclear how the system would work in such conditions.

If this pilot project is successful, it might lead to creating a huge market in the healthcare industry. However, it will become a reality in Bhutan sooner than in Silicon Valley paradoxically. But that is another story.

More about the topic can be found at The Independent and Bhutan News Network.

Images courtesy of Matternet.

 

Drone Startups – Top 10 drone startups @dronologista

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Two months ago when I started posting Drone Startups articles here, I didn’t expect that I will have enough material to run with it as long as I would like to. And I would like to post on this topic for years, if possible, a very moderate goal.

Yet, two months fast forward, and there are ten articles covering a very vibrant community of entrepreneurs that are not only bringing change to the UAV environment, but are about to change the world. Some of them are genuine and ingenious, others are slightly bizarre and there is even one fake startup.

Here is the list of 10 startups that have been featured at dronologista:

1. Matternet

When you realize that more than 1 billion of Earth population, 1.000.000.000 human beings have no access to all season roads, it is sort of shocker. That is a problem Matternet wants to tackle, with the envisioned network of autonomous ground stations and UAV that can reach anyone, anywhere, anytime.

2. Honeycomb

Precision agriculture is one of the biggest markets for sensor equipped Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Honeycomb is a Oregon based startup that wants to tap into that market with their AgDrone fixed wing UAV equipped with visible and multispectral cameras for high-resolution imaging and NDVI-based crop stress detection.

3. Skycatch

Skycatch is San Francisco based, Google backed startup developing a platform for capturing data at scale using small autonomous aerial robots. Their platform consists of  UAV, ground stations and logistics dashboard enabling autonomous and remote drone operation.

4. Garuda Robotics

Garuda Robotics is the first startup featured here that is not US-based. They are from Singapore, and they offer drones and drone fleet management system called Garuda Cloud that comes with the dashboard, multimode flight plan generator, cloud storage and flight simulator.

5. Gofor

This is a complete fake startup. It created a lot of internet buzz, and even people from Google and Texas Instruments called Alex Cornell, the original prankster, asking if he was hiring. Well, he is not because Gofor was a sort of April Fools-day joke. But it just might happen that today’s prank becomes inspiration for a future startup.

6. DroneDeploy

DroneDeploy is a web-based control and management system that offers drone operators things like browser-based operations control, fleet management and tracking, electronic filling and related paperwork and data logging. Managing of multiple-drone operation is a complex task and DroneDeploy is among first to tackle this problem.

7. FlexBot

Flexbot is  tiny, crowdfounded, open-source nanocopter, which can be controlled by a smartphone. With the price of only $49 for the basic product and whooping $159 for more expensive version that comes with 720p real-time video sending webcam, it is inexpensive and fun to fly.

8. EasyDrone

One of the personal favorites, Easy Drone is a plug-and-play aerial filming platform, incredibly compact and easy to assemble. It proved to be a smashing hit on Kickstarter as it reached it $20.000 funding goal within two weeks, and is now nearing its stretch goal of $30.000 that will include some very advanced features.

9. Skyteboard

This startup made me ask myself “why?”, for the first time since I am covering this topic. It goes in the bizarre category, since I am not sure why would anyone finance and buy “social network controlled quadcopter”. It seems that I am not alone, since crowdfunding is not going quite well for Skyteboard. Kudos to the engineering displayed, it is the only bright element of this project.

10. Skysense

One more entrant in the remote drone operation arena is Berlin based Skysense. Their inductive charging landing pad and drone hangars might be tapping into the same market in which Skycatch already is. If inductive landing pad and drone hangar is the way to go, the future will tell.

 

This list will continue to grow, since the drone market seems to be quite interesting for entrepreneurs, and dronologista will follow the topic with great interest and share the news with great devotion.

Do you know of a startup (not mentioned here, preferably) that is using, making or supporting drones?

 

HorseFly – Unmanned Aerial Parcel Delivery System

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Parcel delivery UAVs are a simple idea that requires a complex technology and great deal of vision. Matternet, Amazon.com and DHL (with their Paketkopter) are actively developing their drone delivery designs, and despite restrictive regulations, it is reasonable to expect that it will become reality sooner rather than later.

There is one common thing for all above mentioned systems: they are being developed to deliver package from a fixed location, the warehouse. The fact is that there are not a lot of warehouses in any given metropolitan area, and that they are almost exclusively located on the outskirts of the city. Despite of the developing endurance and range of multirotors, it is easy to see that even with the optimally positioned warehouses around the urban area, large parts of the city will remain outside of delivery drones operational range.

That seems to be a vision that has driven guys from AMP Holding to work together with the University of Cincinnati to develop UAV that will be coupled with a delivery truck.

AMP Workhorse delivery vehicle

AMP Workhorse delivery vehicle

A remarkably simple and brilliant idea of combined truck-UAV delivery method, should work something like this: The HorseFly will be positioned atop a delivery truck, awaiting a package from the driver. When loaded, the HorseFly will scan the barcode on the package, determine the path to the delivery address via GPS and fly away – completely self-guided – to the appropriate destination. Meanwhile, the delivery truck will continue on its rounds. After successful delivery, the HorseFly will zoom back to the truck for its next delivery run and, if needed, a roughly two-minute wireless recharge.

This system will require a more complex route optimization solution, one for the delivery truck and one for the UAV, and it is not clear yet how will that part of the delivery process be sorted out. But with the delivery vehicles conveniently scattered all over the urban area, no neighborhood will be out of range and reach.

HorseFly octocopter and AMP Workhorse

HorseFly octocopter and AMP Workhorse

Essential part of this system is the safety. Steve Burns, AMP CEO says that “An important part of the HorseFly project is that we make a vehicle that will not drop out of the sky”. In addition to the sophisticated autonomous controller system, the HorseFly will have multiple built-in hardware redundancies (rotors, onboard computers, battery packs). So if, for example, multiple rotors were to fail, the HorseFly and its payload still could be retrieved safely.

It seems that we got two emerging UAV delivery technologies: one from the fixed location, warehouse (Amazon.com and DHL) and the other from the moving vehicle. It will be interesting to see which one of them will prevail.

Dronologista bets that the vehicle-UAV system is the winning combination, because it offers great flexibility and contains a potential for further development (think of automation).

Interesting articles about the HorseFLy could be found at GizmagDroneLife and University of Cincinnati news page.

Nice picture gallery can be found in Fast Company Magazine.

Pictures courtesy of PluginCars.com and Fast Company Magazine.

Drone Startups part 1: Matternet

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Just like the internet, but for matter. Set up by a group of students from Singularity University around the idea of leapfrogging expensive and inflexible road infrastructure in 2011, Matternet envisions system that can reach anyone, anywhere a system that creates opportunities and unlocks access.

 

Aiming to leapfrog limits of the existing surface transportation infrastructure, Matternet offers an innovative solution: a network that will use drones to deliver goods from and to communities that don’t have access to roads.

Taking into account present boundaries of drone technology, people behind Matternet designed a system that consists of three components:

  1. Dronescustom-built autonomous electric quadcopters with GPS and sensors, capable of carrying a few kilos up to 10 kilometers (which will improve, as the technology advances)
  2. Ground stations – solar powered charging stations where a drone can swap dead batteries for a set of charged ones
  3. Operating system – to organize fleet operations around the clock

 

The team has already conducted first autonomous point to point test flights in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the UK, and at NASA’s Moffett Field in the US.

Although there are difficulties to be overcame (e.g. adverse weather conditions), those are not insoluble problems, and Matternet team is working on solutions.

 

Although initially targeting rural areas of developing countries without road access, such system can be also used in megacities, carrying goods over congested roads.

 

Video and pictures courtesy of Matternet.