Matternet — the Internet for Physical Transportation

In addition to my interest in LENR I’m always interested in looking at new innovative ideas, and here’s something I just came across that I thought readers here might find interesting. Like many good ideas, it’s very simple, but it’s easy to see the benefits it can bring.

Matternet is a startup company based in Palo Alto, California and has come up with an intriguing idea of setting up a transportation network using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones). Hundreds of millions of people live in parts of the world where there is no decent road infrastructure — and hundreds of millions more live in metropolitan areas where traffic congestion makes transportation very difficult. Their proposed solution is to create a transportation network where UAVs transport goods by air. To begin with they are talking about delivering lightweight packages for items like medicine and high value consumer goods, but they see the capabilities expanding over time.

For a good introduction to how the, here’s an address by Andreas Raptopoulos, one of the company’s founders given at a Google Solve for X meetings in 2012.

The Matternet team has recently carried out field trials of their network in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and Rastopoulos reports that they couldn’t have been happier with the reception they recieved. Here’s a clip of medicine being delivered to a camp set up after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

This is not the only drone-delivery concept out there, but it seems to be one with a well defined vision and a serious team in place to try and make it a reality.

  • Bob Greenyer

    I had discussed this with the MFMP team and have talked widely about this type of transport for nearly one year. Not just for these purposes, but also for personal travel. I believe that with the New Fire, it would frankly be a waste of resources to build new cars and maintain/build the road infra structure for them to run on. If google and others can make self driving cars on hazardous variable roads, it would be trivial to do the same in a 3D volume point to point with a networked route planner.

    It could start off as an app on your smartphone where you call a pool vehicle to take you from your local shopping centre car park in UK, overnight, stress free, to a holiday resort on a greek island. Lay back, sleep. Point to point. Then, we’d all want one.

    I have the advantage that my brother is developing some of the smallest UAVs in the world (think 10g all in)

    • Robert Ellefson

      >If google and others can make self driving cars on
      > hazardous variable roads, it would be trivial to do
      > the same in a 3D volume point to point with a
      > networked route planner.

      It would be *TRIVIAL*??? Dude! Engineering gets NO RESPECT I tell you, NO RESPECT! Despite what other groups may have done in the past, anytime you set out to do something involving large, distributed logistics such as this, you are doing something difficult, not trivial! Just managing the people involved, not including all of the substantial technical matters at hand, is non-trivial.

      Last week it was Ed Storms telling the world that it will be a simple engineering problem to make perfect LENR reactors that take no power input to run once the reactions are “understood.” One could interpret this as solid faith in the sophisticated abilities of the engineering profession, but as a design engineer, I sure don’t feel like such presumptions are expressions of respect and faith as much as they are presumptions about how simple the job of engineering is. No offense intended Ed, but really, gimme a break here!

      Given that Andrea Rossi has demonstrated a multi-kilowatt LENR reactor output, and given that the field of LENR has been researched for over two decades now, it should be a trivial matter to make our own high-powered LENR reactor, right? Right? Come on guys, help me out here!

      Can I get a witness?
      No? How about a design engineer?

      • Bob Greenyer

        Trivial by COMPARISON to collision avoidance on highly variable roads with a multitude of unpredictable elements, like other drivers, pedestrians, dogs.

        by Comparison. not in of itself. Since the former road tech is developed and drone stabilisation and tracking is available in a $500 toy, and road scheduling is a known discipline – whilst not done, most of the pieces are in place.

      • fortyniner

        Perhaps it is relatively simple to produce software that could plot a theoretical 3d course for (say) a ‘quadcopter’ UAV, but it is quite another to arrange for all relevant inputs (GPS, visual systems, system sensors and feedback, radar, ATC comms, weather data, etc.) to arrive at the on board computer at the correct terminations and in the required form, and then to use the tiny voltages output to control motors, blade pitch, rotor angle, outgoing comms etc. Google’s car control systems look like clockwork by comparison, particularly on the ‘output’ side.

        • Iggy Dalrymple

          I’m an old chopper pilot I have doubts about the autorational ability of a quadcopter. For malfunction, pull ripcord.

          On the other hand, LENR might be just the ticket for helicopter or fixed-wing.

          • Bob Greenyer

            One could deploy a parachute and underside shock absorbing balloons in the event of close timed failure of 2 rotors.

            Given that a 747-400 empty is typically 181,000kg and it can carry around 173,000kg of aviation fuel, I think that fairs unfavourably with a potential LENR power module that basically, for all practical calculations, does not change mass in a flight. This simplifies flight dynamic considerations. It may be that the required power plant could be small enough that an entirely redundant back up system could be on board – then failure would come down to terrible prop manufacture.

            The quad drone design is FAR simpler than helicopters (with their single crystal metal elements and complicated rotor control) as there is no need for much more than fixed rotor blades that spin at adjustable rates.

            The biggest problem with these designs is they are susceptible to gusts and don’t typically travel at high speeds.

            In Kerala, India, where I live, the average speed on the states highway is 35km per hour and between Jan and Feb last year 687 people died on the states roads (due to pot holes and impossibly awful driving and random hazards like dogs, goats, cows, elephants on the road) – the idea of laying back and relaxing at 40km/hour and flying in a straight line is quite appealing even if it was just 5 meters above the sea along the coast (I’ve regularly dived off a 10m platform).

          • Roger Bird

            Iggy, the B-2 bomber is very unstable, IF not for the computer controls and nearly instantaneous corrections going on constantly. In today’s world, computer aided stability for an unmanned helicopter with an unstable design should be no problem.

          • fortyniner

            Although the computer(s) that handles this function on a stealth bomber is probably at least the size of a suitcase!

          • Iggy Dalrymple

            Roger, I’m not talking stability. With a helicopter, in the event of a power failure, you can make a controlled descent via auto-rotation.

            With a quadcopter, I don’t think the blades are long enough to autorotate. The blades of a quadcopter cannot “freewheel” like the blades of a helicopter. Helicopter blades can “de-clutch” from the transmission.

      • Warthog

        Once the correct fuel design is discovered, Storms is right. Rossi’s tech is literally “chipped flint knife” compared to what is possible with materials science capabilities. Already there are murmurings of “nuclear active environment” configurations that do not require external heat to start up, run, or control–just change the hydrogen(deuterium) pressure. I believe George Miley’s NAE design already does that, at least some of the time.

        • Robert Ellefson

          I’m not disputing the long-term possibility of any of these particular assertions, merely the “trivial” nature of the engineering tasks involved. Not that Ed used the word trivial, but that’s the word that started my ranting in this thread 🙂

          • Jim

            Decent rant. On top of the challenges of getting just from concept to a basic operable physical-cybernetic design, there are the inputs that engineers so love from social, economic and political stakeholders.

          • GreenWin

            Robert, I will witness for you. These are not trivial engineering challenges given safety/reliability and MTBF expectations. BTW, you should adjust your necktie when delivering the NO RESPECT line.

          • Andy Kumar

            “BTW, you should adjust your necktie when delivering the NO RESPECT line.”

            Reminds me of Ronald Reagan story that I won’t repeat here. Style always wins over substance:)


          • Omega Z

            Take my wife.

            No seriously

          • fortyniner

            The old ones are always the best… 🙂

          • Bob Greenyer

            No too old, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

          • Warthog

            You won’t here me say it’s “trivial” (the engineering). Although I am a chemist, what I actually do is design instrumentation. Which involves LOTS of very fiddly engineering. So I have a great appreciation that small rocks can harbor very large snakes. My point is basically that the variable universe may shrink with improved fuel design.

  • elasticbucket

    Unmitigated drone flights would endanger the whole of the world. Admittedly the purposeful use of drones as mentioned here would indeed be welcome however, security from rogue states, criminals and others with a bent to cause mischief would have a field day – even flights from a short distance have the potential to cause massive hurt (and good) to the target population. There may be a way to shield bona-fide flights but I do not think we have that technology yet.

    • Warthog

      Sure we have the technology. It’s called “GPS”. What you’ll have is different altitudes for different directions, and GPS lanes within those altitudes, with “no fly” zones around places where vertical transitions are being done (i.e. like airports). I believe that USA airspace is already somewhat divided in this way.

      But in cases like the example, the odds of any conflicting aerial traffic are zero to very slim.

      • Jim

        I’d be more concerned about collisions between UAVs and 30-06 rounds.

  • Blanco69

    I think there is already a service in the UK that will deliver pizza by UAV to the coordinates of your smart phone. In today’s western society pizza comes before life saving medicine every time!!

    • Mattias

      A pizza can save someone from starvation… ;P

  • Kim

    Could a predator drone hijack a pizza!


    • AstralProjectee

      LOL, funny Kim.

    • Iggy Dalrymple

      Dominos Quadcopters charge double for delivery near Somali Coast….tipping optional.

  • Roger Bird

    Heads up. When trying to communicate with politically knowledgeable people like congress people and their working staff, do not use the phrase “hot fusion”. I think that immediately they know that the person presenting the information is an LENR advocate and since we have an agenda, they immediately close their minds. I used that term at the end of my presentation, and you would be surprised how quickly he lost interest and tried to subtly end the conversation.

    • Invy

      So, just say fusion now?

  • Roger Bird

    Who is going to pay for the service in Lesotho and other poor areas in the world?

    • BroKeeper


      I had just sent a communiqué on this potential ‘Matternet’ to a friend and director of Care Partners International. It is a non-profit organization devoted to providing medical assistance and pharmaceuticals to remote areas of the world.

      Just the savings from the cost of transporting those critical items across impassable terrain like Guatemala during the rainy seasons would free funds for operational support. Also reduced long refrigeration storage requirements and delivery time should be significant.

      Of course, there is transport of cheap and light nickel cartridges to very remote E-Cats.

      • Roger Bird

        That makes perfect sense. It is already being funded now, but only the expensive and inefficient way. With drones it will be less expensive. I was afraid that Matternet was expecting the poor people to pay for it.

  • fortyniner

    OT but related to direct electrical current production in energy absorbing nanostructured materials, i.e., extracting electricity directly from Ni/H CF reactors:

    We hypothesized that, when plasmons are excited to a high energy state, we should be able to harvest the electrons out of the material…

    In this case input is light photons, but perhaps a system might be developed that could utilise gamma or infra-red photons, or which might directly tap phonon oscillations in nickel, if this is a part of the LENR effect as some have suggested.

    • georgehants

      Morning Peter, you get up to early. 🙂
      Many times you say “OT” but it must be fair so say it would be very difficult to find any subject that is not connected to Cold Fusion in some important way.
      The delay’s are definitely connected to capitalistic corruption as much as scientific incompetence and corruption, therefor a link such as below has a direct connection as to why millions are being allowed to suffer by the delay.
      Mr. Rossi “probably” in all good faith is choosing a method of release of his technology that is much delayed because of the considerations of such incompetence and corruption in both science and a capitalistic World where profit can be directly responsible for much suffering so that the few can stay rich and powerful.
      In a sane World he should be able to release his findings as they happen, sure that he will receive due honors and happy that all of science and industry would immediately put all possible efforts into it’s rapid development for the benefit of all.
      Baby food from shops half as nutritious as homemade meals, study finds