Profile: 2014 Powerful Answers Transportation Award Winner Matternet

Company’s Vision is to Create a Transportation Network of Autonomous Flying Vehicles to Unlock Potential for Billions of People

By on March 16, 2015

Verizon is now accepting ideas for the 2015 Powerful Answers Award 

Expanding its ongoing commitment to innovation and social responsibility, we are currently accepting submissions for the chance to win up to $1,000,000 in prize money. Enter here by June 18th, 2015: verizon.com/powerfulanswers/award/

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When you think of the word “drone”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most, it’s war, the device that recently fell onto the White House lawn, or simply a gadget you play with in your backyard. But for Matternet, it means a whole lot more.  

In 2011, as part of a Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University, co-founders Andreas Raptopoulos and Paola Santana were tasked to address one of humanity’s grand challenges using today’s advanced technology. After realizing there were a billion people in the world living in areas with poor road infrastructure, and that drones could be a more reliable way to deliver goods or “matter,” like medicine, the idea for Matternet was born.

“Imagine you are in a maternity ward in Mali and have a newborn in urgent need of medication. What would you do today?” asked CEO Andreas Raptopoulos in his 2013 TED Talk. “In the U.S., you would place a request on a mobile device and someone would get it immediately. That’s the part that works. But in Mali, the medication may take days to arrive because of bad roads. This is the part that’s broken. We believe we can deliver it within hours with an electric autonomous flying vehicle.”

Matternet has pioneered the world's first autonomous network for transporting lightweight goods by air. They have connected smart drones, cloud services and safe landing stations with an intuitive mobile application, enabling easy set-up and operation in areas with road infrastructure challenges.

Raptopoulos and his team have already deployed pilot programs, including one in the remote forests of Papua New Guinea, where they worked with Doctors Without Borders to deliver medicine to a region battling a serious tuberculosis epidemic. In the high mountains of Bhutan, they partnered with the World Health Organization to transport medicine between the main hospital and smaller healthcare units.

Matternet is also looking at delivery challenges in cities with high traffic where customers expect immediacy. Imagine running out of your prescription and having it delivered to your doorstep 20 minutes later by a flying drone.

Matternet entered the Verizon Powerful Answers contest after seeing it promoted on social media. “The word ‘powerful’ caught our attention,” said Raptopoulos. “At Matternet, we are looking at building a new network for transportation, and we see this being very similar to what happened with the telecommunications industry. These networks have inspired us, which is why it made perfect sense to apply for this award.”

The company will use the award winnings for product development and accelerating the launch of their first product. Raptopoulos said, “2015 will be our most exciting year to date, with the product launch and new pilots we are setting up throughout the world to show how we are transporting all different types of goods. We want people to see that we are building a system that can be used everywhere by everyone.”

“We see companies like Verizon as natural partners and people we should be talking with about rolling out our network. It’s quite a special thing for us and we are proud to have been awarded the prize,” Raptopoulos said.

For more information on Matternet, please visit: http://matternet.us/

Heidi Flato is a public relations manager with Verizon Wireless. Follow her on twitter at: @VZWheidi.

Tags: Verizon Powerful Answers Award, Transportation