One humanitarian business organization that will display at the Green Flight Expo following the completion of that seven-day event uses the type of technology the CAFE Foundation espouses for carrying medicines and supplies to remote parts of the third world that otherwise do not easily permit transport of any kind.
Matternet’s slogan, “Lifting the Rising Billion” refers to those living primarily in Africa and is explained in their statement of belief. “By increasing the access to reliable transportation for people living in poverty, we will enable them to find a sustainable path out of poverty.
“We will connect people from geographically isolated communities to local and global markets through the Matternet.” This credo applies to poor communities throughout the world, and Matternet is committed to creating airborne supply networks worldwide.
Mechanisms are simple enough, with quadrotor helicopters, much like those used by Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun and his alumni, Nicholas Roy (now assistant professor at MIT) in their investigations of autonomous flight and in competitions that require cross-country navigation.
We normally think of these devices used in military or police hunter/killer type applications, so the idea that they can be used for peaceful purposes is a bit of a leap. With their ability to cover the “last mile” in delivering to remote areas, they become literal life savers.
Matternet sees such devices as competitive to and supportive of a poor country’s existing infrastructure, able to provide goods and services at a competitive rate.
A case in point is Matternet’s work in Lesotho, a land-locked, 85-percent mountainous county embedded in South Africa. It can take four hours to go from a remote village to a populated area by foot. Existing roads are impassable four months out of each year. 570,000 live with HIV/AIDS and 25 percent of the nation’s children have lost at least on parent to the disease. Because of that epidemic, a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis has become a threat.
With the only transportation option often the doctor’s bush plane, necessary tests for 450,000 people twice year are not feasible. Matternet can provide low-cost service between clinics and villagers and reduce the total costs to people who on average, live on less than $2 a day.
Matternet’s business model has three phases, the first determining potential clients and establishing routes to take goods to them. Blood and tissue samples, medicine, vaccines, documents, small goods, electronics, and small parcels can be delivered by an autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV), which would fly between two stations. Cost for parts and labor would be around $1,200, with a selling price of $2,500, making this operation a business, but one serving otherwise unserved needs in difficult circumstances. Profits help the enterprise grow, serve more people, and take on bigger tasks.
Phases 2 and 3 grow an infrastructure of networked, interacting AAVs and ground stations. Users could buy or rent the infrastructure.
Matternet is an outgrowth of Singularity University, headquartered at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California.
Peter H. Diamandis and Dr. Ray Kurzweil co-founded the University, with the idea of leveraging “the power of exponential technologies to solve humanity’s grand challenges.” To that end, they gather academics, scientists, and industry leaders to explore breakthough approaches to serving mankind.
With backing from Google, sponsor for the Green Flight Challenge, and many social networking organizations, the University specializes in applying the disruptive technologies in innovative and practical ways.
CAFE is pleased to have Matternet as a participant in our upcoming Green Flight Challenge Expo.
Sign up for free tickets to attend the event at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California on October 3. All GFC competitors will be there, along with over 20 exhibitors in the high technology realm. This is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, with the opportunity to meet the best and brightest not only in aviation, but in a dazzling spectrum of achievement.