This summer's crippling famine in Somalia, which has killed tens of thousands of people and led half a million more to seek refuge in Kenya, is notable for many reasons — but the theft and sale of life-saving aid is arguably one of the worst. A new project could be one way to prevent such atrocity in the future: Use drones to drop food and drugs right where they're needed, no human intervention required. Enter the Matternet.
Matternet is a startup company that aims to use a network of unmanned aerial vehicles, likely quadcopters, to deliver medical supplies, food and other materials to people in rural areas. It could ensure access to basic needs in places where roads become impassable in rainy seasons, or where they might not exist at all. And, conceivably, it could be used to circumvent warlords and other obstacles, getting aid to people who need it.
The aerial vehicles will work together to transport goods through an integrated network, dubbed the Matternet.
It would work by charging aid companies to use the service, according to CNET, which posted an interview with Matternet leader Andreas Raptopoulos. The project was conceived at Singularity University. The company will deploy the initial hardware, maintenance and services, and set up a basic infrastructure network, which would involve UAV charging stations and some type of communication system. Then an aid group would pay to use the UAVs for delivery of drugs or other materials.
There are plenty of kinks to work out, but it's an interesting way to address the glaring gap that remote networks still possess: Physical connection. Telemedicine can help doctors remotely diagnose disease, for instance, and smartphone ubiquity can help farmers check local prices and learn efficient harvest practices. But that doesn't solve the problem of getting drugs to the sick people, or getting crops to the market — the Matternet could.
Apparently others agree — the Dominican Republic is financing a pilot project for the company, CNET says. Find out more at Matternet's home page.
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That's a nice toy. It's really not a solution to very much of the problem. It can't transport bulk aide on the scale needed. I doubt it would be that much more effective than air drops, but at least air drops deliver large quantities, while this cannot.
Plus, it's pretty clear that these things will be quite expensive, have extremely limited range, require high-tech maintenance, and can be easily shot down, especially while landing. Other than all that, it sounds great, though!
Kind of confusing story. These devices won't help Somalia.
I know I took this from a comedian but they need U-Hauls not flying hand outs. The place can't support that many people even if they were skilled and had technology and put their nose to the grindstone and they got rid of all the crooks and had a gold mine.
There may be a very limited use for humanitarian tasks based on your medicine example.
Given the drone technology that already exists, it's a bit strange that they are aiming to use such a small model with a miniscule payload.
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley
they can deliver drugs (which are expensive) directly to individuals that need them; actually, they are inexpensive, so many could be deployed, if the aid organizations buy into this then we will know if they are cost effective
I think of a pizza store delivering pizzas this way and for the uav to make less effort probably firs elevating the pizza
to a tower or blimp were the uav would come to pick it and charge and later -fall- on the client.
I like solomon's idea. Jimmy John's should get a hold of these so they can fly my sandwich to me.
I think this would be more useful for natural disasters where folks might need a small amount of water or medical supplies for a short time period, or the drones could be used to scout for survivors. Supplying an entire country with enough food to sustain it for an extended period with these makes less sense.
yes this would be perfect for deliveries of food and medicine. only the smaller stuff. i would use one for home defense. hook it up with turret guns and leave it on standby mode at night.
@aarontco. Fully agree with you. I dont think these people understand the scale of the problem nor the environment they would be required to work in. You will need generators to charge the UAV's. You will need constant supply of fuel for the generators. You will need technicians on hand. (not readily available in north africa) It will be incredibly expensive if not impractical. As an African, I take offence that people would ask for investment in a scheme like this claiming it would benefit the victims of famine.
We're looking at natural selection here. FGS, Africa is the wealthiest continent on earth in resources. It's peoples have been, are and will be ignorant. That's why the Chinese are very busy to get in while the rest is looking on. Unfortunately Chinese are not known for their humanitarian feelings.