Drone network takes on hospital-to-hospital deliveries in Switzerland

By Dave Muoio
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Swiss hospitals will soon have a self-coordinating drone courier network to deliver lab samples between facilities. Menlo Park, California-based Matternet’s newly announced autonomous drone logistics platform, Matternet Station, is smartphone-operated, delivers samples across urban settings within half an hour, and will be operational sometime next month, according to recent reporting from the Verge.

Paired with the company’s drones and cloud platform, Matternet Station acts as a high-tech landing strip and delivery coordinator. The integrated peer-to-peer logistic network will guide drones to a precision landing on the station where it will quickly swap batteries and payloads. Users place requests via a smartphone app, then insert the sample into a special carrying container and scan the package into the station. Recipients would then retrieve the package by flashing the corresponding QR code at the receiving station.

“With the Matternet Station, we’re introducing an extremely easy-to-use interface that enables true peer-to-peer drone delivery,” Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos said in a statement. “For healthcare systems, an integrated Matternet network means that medical items can be delivered to any hospital facility within 30 minutes. This level of speed and predictability creates substantial opportunities for improved quality of care and operational savings.”

Matternet received initial approval from Switzerland’s postal service and its Federal Office for Civil Aviation last March, when it tested the system by ferrying samples between two Swiss hospitals, Ospedale Italiano and Ospedale Civico. Swiss Post said in March that the drones would need to meet “strict safety, practicality, and reliability requirements” as they passed over densely populated areas during these initial tests to be considered for regular duty throughout the country. Matternet says that its drone network will achieve this goal by next year.

As of July, an investigation from IDC said that no hospitals were employing drones within any area of clinical care delivery, and anticipated that adoption of the autonomous machines would not increase for approximately three to five more years. A study published in June, however, found that drones carrying automated external defibrillators were able to beat EMS respondents to rural heart attack victims by as much as 17 minutes.