How drones could build real-world networks to transform delivery of food, medicine, mail, and more

The rise of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) has been at the forefront of the news over the last months, with issues emerging that range from the remote use of military force to domestic privacy.

However there are many very positive applications of drones. Matternet, spawned from a Singularity University program, envisages creating a network of drones to address developing world problems. Over a billion people are geographically isolated and are often not able to access regular transport and the goods that can travel to them. Rather than building physical infrastructure, drones can cheaply and easily allow drugs, food, and other essentials to get to where they are needed. The video below shows the Matternet Vision.



Inventor Ray Kurzweil draws an apt analogy to how mobile is leapfrogging landlines in developing countries. Rather than create infrastructure with immense development and maintenance costs, far better to completely bypass old approaches with cheaper and more adaptable solutions.

There are also developed world applications. One of the most obvious, given the woes of the post offices around the world, is replacing mail delivery. A less pressing one, but one which may excite some more, is fast delivery of freshly cooked food. Unfortunately Tacocopter, which promised to deliver tacos on a drone, is not able to surmount regulatory barriers. For now, at least.