How Matternet Plans to Become the UPS of Drone Delivery Services

brought to you by WBR Insights

Companies such as Amazon and Google normally dominate any conversation regarding drone delivery systems. However, tech startup, Matternet is looking to bring UAV-powered delivery to the masses.

Andreas Raptopoulos was first inspired to found Matternet when he realised one billion people around the world did not have reliable road access to their homes and often encountered difficulties accessing critical supplies such as medicine. His idea was validated while touring Papua New Guinea with aid organisation Medicins Sans Frontieres when their 20-truck convoy became stranded in mud. He knew a global network of drones could address these problems and change the way delivery services all over the world operate.

Today, Matternet has recruited a strong team of industry experts, has graduated from startup accelerator, Alchemist, and is ready to take on the world.

UPS for Drone Delivery

While being able to deliver essential supplies to some of the world's most inhospitable locations is a fantastic idea with the potential to greatly benefit mankind, the vision for Matternet expands beyond these noble ideals.

(Video source:

The grand plan is to create a global network of Matternet Stations. Customers who need to send a package can then scan it at one of the stations and feed it into a special slot. The parcel is then loaded into a drone and autonomously delivered to the designated destination station. The drone then returns to its home base to refuel, ready for the next delivery.

The drone can select from one of five batteries before taking off, ensuring it will always have enough power to complete its journey. The stations have even been designed to allow packages to be "leap-frogged" from one to another, enabling the Matternet network to cover even greater distances.

"Applying on-demand delivery to e-commerce could help people move away from buying in advance and storing goods, into an economy where we transact goods in real time with low latency and friction," said Andreas Raptopoulos, co-founder and CEO of Matternet. "That could mean less road congestion, improved air quality, and shipping costs so low they don't even register as an expense. In our view, the bottom-line benefit will be to make our cities far more liveable."


A partnership with Mercedes-Benz is allowing Matternet drones to reach even more locations.

(Video source:

Mercedes vans with built-in Matternet Stations can drive as close to the destination as possible. From there, the drone can take off and carry the package the rest of the way. Until Matternet Stations are a common sight around the globe, the partnership with Mercedes is a great way to expand the operational range of the service - especially when one considers the company's original raison d'etre.

With the van/drone delivery system, Matternet can begin operations straight away, before they've established their network of stations. The program is currently being tested in Zurich, Switzerland, with plans to roll it out globally when all the necessary regulatory approval has been obtained.

"If we succeed, we expect to expand the Zurich delivery service to other hospitals in Switzerland, and then to e-commerce solutions in Europe, the US and Japan," said Raptopoulos. "Achieving this level of scale should reduce the cost dramatically, making our technology viable in parts of the world where the infrastructure is broken. Just as cell phone networks have leapfrogged the wired Internet in some places, on-demand delivery could leapfrog the limitations of ground-based infrastructure."

Final Thoughts

Delivering aid to some of the world's most isolated and inhospitable locations is reason enough to establish a drone delivery network such as the one proposed by Matternet. However, with the additional ambition of creating a global parcel delivery system, Matternet is looking to change the way everyone sends and receives packages.

The final word goes to Andreas Raptopoulos. "Imagine if customers could receive small packaged goods in less than an hour, instead of a day or a week. The time and cost savings could change how goods are purchased and consumed, with far-reaching consequences across the supply chain and to people's lives. No one knows how this will play out exactly. It is really exciting to apply our technology to create the kind of future we want to live in."

Drone delivery is set to be a hot topic at Future Stores West 2018 this June at the Sheraton Seattle, WA.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

Return to Blog