An autonomous drone network in Switzerland will have unmanned aerial vehicles deliver blood samples and other medical diagnostic materials between healthcare facilities like hospitals, laboratories, and clinics next month.
Matternet, a logistics company, announced that there will be numerous networks like these introduced to the country throughout the year, and that this service allows for imperative medical items to be delivered to hospitals within 30 minutes. This is a huge step forward in healthcare efficiency, regarding the vital increase of speed so often needed when trying to save lives.
We’ve seen similar urges to improve upon our traditional emergency response systems, like the defibrillator-carrying drone in Sweden. It was only a few months ago that we reported on UNICEF and Zipline’s “air corridor” in Malawi, which similarly aims to cut down on transportation time.
It seems that Matternet has the same mission here, and that’s great to see. If a case study of a network like this operating with significant efficacy and tangible results can become the foundation for expanding this kind of transportation measure, there doesn't appear to be a single downside here.
Too many people have died waiting for that ambulance. Of course, currently, Matternet is focused on transporting small items like blood samples, but technology with as much potential as this doesn’t ever stop at its primary stage. Think of where this could go.
According to The Verge, California-based Matternet was allowed to carry out drone operations above populated city environments in Switzerland back in March. It was reportedly a first in regards to urban drone activity on a scale like this.
Today, Matternet revealed the Matternet Station, a drone that serves as a lockbox for items, measures two square meters, and can deliver or pick up items. The Matternet Station could be posted on a hospital’s rooftop or at a clinic’s parking lot. Let’s take a look at this thing, shall we?
This drone network that Matternet is running is done so in partnership with Swiss Post. According to The Verge, a few hospitals in Lugano, Switzerland have already successfully tested Matternet drone flights, replete with samples being transported.
This is something the company plans on standardizing early next year, which while ambitious, seems to be the natural next step. As long as this is working out with a healthy combination of safety and efficiency, this drone-based emergency service could become even more beneficial to the general populous in the future than it even is now.
Co-founder and CEO of Matternet, Andreas Raptopoulos, said that the “types of diagnostics that need to be transported are urgent in nature and they are on demand,” adding that traditional methods are often not as expeditious as one wishes.
“They have to wait for a courier, sometimes they get taxis to do this type of thing, and when you have a system like this, that is autonomous and reliable, it completely transforms operations,” Raptopoulos said. So how exactly does this work?
Of course, the Matternet Station is controlled via app. Here you fill out forms with item details, and presumably pre-authorized pick up and drop off locations, etc. You’d then place the item in the drone's compartment, making sure not to exceed the weight limit of 4.4 pounds, and let the drone take off. Once the UAV arrives at its destination, the receiver simply scans a QR code and retrieves the desired item. Pretty simple, right?
Now, of course there are a few complications like weather conditions, the amount of drones flying simultaneously (currently, Matternet agrees to one or two at a time), and distance and weight limitations. However, it’s incredible to see advances like these at such a rapid pace. It seems as though drone-based applications like these are coalescing within months, with actual, tangible results feasible just around the corner.
Stay tuned, as we keep a close eye on Matternet and its drone network in and outside of Switzerland.