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Our Autonomous Future: The Matternet Station and The Drone Companies Leading the Autonomous Pack

BY Zacc Dukowitz
28 September 2017

Recently a few big releases have highlighted where we’re headed in the drone industry.

At InterDrone a few weeks back Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, spoke about how the development of the drone industry is helping to push the development of AI forward. Drones are collecting such huge amounts of data that it’s driving a demand for AI to help process, analyze, and convert that data into actionable insights.

As part of his talk, an autonomous inspection was conducted of a wall with a varied surface. The drone was able to take off, perform the inspection, land, and deliver the data recorded, all with the push of a button.

Intel software then analyzed the findings from the inspection, compared them to a previous inspection, and pointed out specific changes in the facade as places where work might need to be done.

All of this was autonomous and pre-programmed.

But Intel is not the only company producing autonomous technology. In fact, “autonomous” could well be the word for 2017 when it comes to describing major advances in the drone industry—it was certainly a huge buzzword at InterDrone 2017, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.

The Matternet Station

Matternet has been working in the autonomous space for a while now, and they just announced the release of the Matternet Station, which will allow for what some are calling the first autonomous drone delivery network ever (although Flytrex may beg to differ—more on that below).

Back in April Matternet announced successful drone deliveries to hospitals in Lugano, Switzerland, with many more planned.

Swiss Post's Matternet drone delivers lab samples between hospitals

Matternet is back in the news now with the roll out of their Station, which makes autonomous deliveries feasible by providing a full solution, where users can insert a package and destination, and the rest is taken care of.

The system will be used to make deliveries like lab samples, blood tests, and other diagnostics between hospital facilities, clinics, and labs. Matternet says the deliveries can be made in 30 minutes once the autonomous system is up and running.

With the Matternet Station, we’re introducing an extremely easy-to-use interface that enables true peer-to-peer drone delivery.

– Andreas Raptopoulos, Matternet CEO

Although the Matternet Station will initially be used just for medical supplies, the model it provides for deliveries could be used to create autonomous delivery systems for all kinds of goods of comparable size.

The Matternet Station

The Matternet Station is integrated with Matternet’s autonomous M2 Drone and Matternet’s Cloud platform, and it certainly looks user friendly. We’ll be excited to hear more once the network is in place and doing regular deliveries.

Flytrex Deliveries in Iceland

When it comes to autonomous drone deliveries, Flytrex is one of the companies at the head of the pack.

Flytrex Drone Delivery in Reykjavík, Iceland

While companies like Flirtey and Amazon Prime Air have talked about autonomous drone deliveries, Flytrex recently launched an actual autonomous delivery system in Iceland.

The current delivery system carries packages and food orders under 3 kilograms (about 6 and 1/2 lbs) across parts of the city of Reykjavík that are separated by a bay. This means that right now, today in Reykjavík, you can order pizza, beer, or a hamburger and have it delivered to you via drone.

We currently have 20 deliveries per day, and we plan on expanding that in the near future. The thing to emphasize is that the drone delivery program in Iceland is a system that has been deployed and will continue to expand as we receive permission to fly in different routes and in different parts of the city. It’s not a one-off.

– Yariv Bash, CEO of Flytrex

The above quote came from an interview we did with Flytrex’s CEO not too long ago. Read the interview to learn more about how Flytrex is killing it when it comes to autonomous drone delivery systems.

Atlas Dynamic’s NEST

At InterDrone we got to see Atlas Dynamic’s NEST in action, which protects and stores the Atlas Pro drone while also charging it between autonomous missions.

Here’s a video we took of the NEST in action at InterDrone:

The NEST allows you to literally hit a button, have the drone deployed, fly a mission, and return to the NEST, all while located remotely.

This technology has huge implications for missions that have regular flight patterns. Imagine an autonomous drone system surveilling a prison on a regular schedule to look for irregularities, or conducting a survey of a farm every morning at a certain time and reporting back to the farmer regarding which parts of his or her fields need attention.

It’s important to note that these examples also assume the existence of AI and software that can analyze the visual data, and provide actionable insights from it—AI and software like that described above, which helped determine the differences between a current and prior survey of a wall in a demo done by Intel at InterDrone.

Of course, as with any new technologies, the possibilities for autonomous drone systems may seem greater than the reality may initially allow.

But one thing’s for certain: autonomous systems are where we’re headed in the drone industry, and these companies are some of the ones at the front of the pack when it comes to providing functioning autonomous drone delivery systems, and technology that actually works.

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