Bhutan has become the testing spot for Silicon Valley’s goods delivery drones this week.
A low-cost drone-based delivery project is being tested in the remote Himalayas that could save lives in far-flung rural communities—and perhaps pioneer the system globally.
The project comes after the Bhutanese government and the World Health Organisation reached out to Matternet, a Palo Alto company backed by some big name American investors that develops transportation networks using unmanned aerial vehicles to reach hard-to-access places, earlier this year.
With funds from investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Scott and Cyan Banister and Winklevoss Capital, Matternet has spent the past couple of years conducting field tests in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, news reports say.
The project in Bhutan, however, is the first big test for the startup. Matternet is aiming to build a network of low-cost quadcopters to connect the country’s main hospitals with rural communities.
Matternet uses small quadcopters that can carry loads of about four pounds across 20 km at a time, to and from pre-designated landing stations.
For the pilot project, Matternet is using four drones to connect the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu with three small healthcare units.
If pilot projects such as these work out, they could potentially lead to a massive new market for drone-based applications.