Transportation & Mobility

Paola Santana: How drones will reinvent logistics

Roughly 1 billion people live in places without access to all-season roads. The lack of basic infrastructure to move goods to market severely has limited their ability to create sustainable incomes and thus get out of the cycle of poverty.

But Matternet's co-founder and COO Paola Santana said we now have at our disposal a technology that can allow people in remote Third World locations to leapfrog into the economy — without going through the costly and many-year process of building asphalt roads, or any roads.

Enter drones.

Autonomous lightweight vehicles steered by pre-programed GPS-based software could be the transportation logistics that bring many Third World regions into the global economy because with them, they could receive and deliver goods to market.

"We think drones might be the biggest invention since the internal combustion engine," Santana told GreenBiz Forum. Because they don't need need infrastrucuture and they don't take much energy to go, drones could be cheap ways for remote areas to transport goods.

Santana said Matternet did some caluculations and found the total cost for delivering a 2-kilogram package via a drone over 25 kilometers is about 24 cents — a fraction of what, for instance, conventional ground delivery costs in the United States. Those 25 kilometers also only use 4 cents of energy.

Her goal and that of Matternet's is to tell children in Papua New Guinea and other countries cut off from world economies that with drones, "we will not leave them centuries behind" in access to medicine and markets.

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