Menlo Park startup plans for delivery with drones

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KTVU) - A small startup in Menlo Park is partnering with two Swiss companies in hopes of changing the way small goods are delivered.

Matternet's co-founder Paola Santana and her team showed KTVU the drones they built and how they hope their product will change the world.

The company tests its drones in a dirt parking lot right by the company's office. The UAV, short for unmanned aerial vehicle, is made primarily of nylon and carbon fiber. Each cost about $5,000.

The work is all being done at Matternet's office in Menlo Park. Team members design, build and assemble the drones.

"We are in an amazing moment to make something incredible happen," said Santana.
Matternet has a new partnership with Swiss Post --Switzerland's postal service and Swiss Airlines cargo division.

Many Matternet employees are currently in Switzerland testing drones. They are using them to deliver urgent items such as lab tests and emergency supplies.

Right now, a Matternet drone can carry up to 2.2 pounds, travel about 13 miles and fly 30 to 40 minutes. But with technology constantly evolving, those numbers will undoubtedly change.

"We need to create a transportation system that fits the current state of the world. We want everything on demand," said Santana.

Even before the Swiss partnerships, the startup has been to Haiti, Bhutan, a country in the Himalayas, and Papua New Guinea.

The company worked with the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, transporting items between city hospitals and rural clinics.

How soon drones will be used regularly depends on the regulations of each individual country.

Matternet hopes to be return to Bhutan to put the drones in full use by next year.

But Matternet acknowledges that the Swiss companies don't expect widespread use of the
drones for another five to 10 years.

"It's more than excitement. It's a level where you see a vision you had a few years ago is materializing," said Santana.

Matternet says its mission is to transport urgent care items quickly, whether it’s in a congested modern city or remote areas of a third world country.