European Company Develops Drone Docking Stations for Hospitals

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A Matternet Station is a drone kiosk for medical delivery drones. They haven’t arrived in the United States yet, but have begun to appear in Switzerland. Forbes reports that an arrangement with UPS could see the unmanned air couriers ferrying medical material and lab samples directly to hospitals in the near future.

Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos is quoted in VentureBeat as saying, “Our vision is to connect every healthcare facility in every metropolitan area with the fastest transportation method available today. We are building the technology platform for extremely fast, point-to-point, urban medical delivery, enabling hospital systems to shrink patient waiting times and save millions of dollars per year through the centralization of laboratories and medical inventory.” 

The stations look something like a ten foot tall tethered weather balloon. When the top opens up, the M2 drone can dock and complete a number of autonomous activities. It is able to transfer payload in and out of the station, exchange batteries, and scan the condition of the drone. Human medical personnel dropping off or retrieving boxes require a key card scan to proceed.

At this stage in the development, Raptopoulos says the advantage to employing Matternet is a matter of speed rather than price. The company has declined to comment on the actual expense of the project. Matternet acknowledges some delivery problems, including a drone crash in 2019, in an area near children at play. However, it claims a track record of over 1,500 safe flights so far and anticipates expanding its business. 

The CEO has said that he expects operational costs to streamline as medical processing can be centralized and fewer human intermediaries are required to oversee the drones. “That’s really the big challenge and the big bet that our company is taking,” says CEO Andreas Raptopoulos. “If we can remove the people from every node the economics will be completely transformed.” 

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