Drone delivery startup is about to begin commercial operations

The drone delivery startup Matternet is getting ready to put its technology into commercial use. The company has announced that it will soon be launching a drone delivery network in urban areas of Switzerland to ferry medical samples between labs and hospitals. The company has also announced the Matternet Station, which is an answer to one of the big questions facing drone delivery companies: how to handle the beginning and end of a trip.

Matternet is taking a different approach than Amazon, which envisions drones dropping packages off in a customer's yard. This is an approach that could work well in suburban and rural areas but won't work as well in big cities where people might not have suitable places for package drop-offs.

The Matternet station works like a drone mailbox. Customers insert a package into a slot in the station, and a robot arm hands the package off to a Matternet drone for takeoff. If the customer arrives at the drop-off station before the drone, the station can hold the package until the drone gets there. The drone then flies to another Matternet station, which stores the package until the recipient arrives to pick it up.

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