Matternet’s automated drone docking station makes real debut in Switzerland – TechCrunch
No one is sure exactly how drone delivery will fit into the future of logistics, but one thing’s for sure: the plane isn’t going to drop large payloads right on someone’s lawn. Matternet’s Station, an automated landing space and payload control tower, may be the answer, and the flower-shaped structure has finally made the leap from reality to a medical facility in Switzerland.
The Station was teased early last year, but you never know with these concept renders if the end result will look like the idea. In this case, it’s dead, looking for something like a prop from a ’60s sci-fi movie.
The unusual shape serves a purpose, however, providing a safe place for a cargo drone to land and swap out its battery, protected from the elements and the type of rascal who would snatch a medical charge from an innocent robot. .
This packaging, in the case of this first installation, will be a temperature sensitive hard case with many vials inside which would normally be transferred by land. It could be lab samples, blood, drugs, anything that has a short shelf life and has to travel between facilities for one reason or another.
Inside the station, the case is removed from the machine and stored for recovery by a person authorized to take it. There is a small collection gate secured by the same type of badge that you could use to enter a restricted area of the hospital. The idea is to integrate it into the usual authentication systems, and to make a delivery by drone as simple as a pneumatic tube, a trolley or a shackle envelope but without the need to be in the same building.
The first station is in Lugano, within the EOC hospital group, but the first large deployment will be in Abu Dhabi, where the company will work with SkyGo and the city’s health service to build a network of 40 stations around the city. These would be used for the same general purpose – relatively light and urgent medical deliveries – but on a larger scale:
Last month, Matternet became the first drone company to transport doses of Pfizer vaccine between sites – the kind of short-term logistics that any hospital network or health department would love to be able to put in place. Big rush on blows in the city center? Airlift a few hundred doses from the distribution center or nearby clinic rather than sending people elsewhere.
Of course, the idea that such a valuable payload could land in the yard or on a random rooftop is unacceptable – hence the Station as a prerequisite for this type of network. Don’t hold your breath to have one in your yard, however.