Bhutan is a landlocked South Asian country with a population that barely stands north of 700,000 mark. This Himalayan country does not have well developed transportation system with people often finding it difficult to receive medical aid when required. To counter this problem, Bhutanese government and an American UAV builder have joined hands to test a transportation network based on the company’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. If tests are successful, the Palo Alto based company will receive a huge boost both in publicity and contracts.
Matternet is a company specializing in transportation systems and is creating an automated delivery network for goods, built on a network of UAVs operating autonomously (without human intervention) coordinated with a proprietary software platform. Their ‘initial vertical’ is the $1 Billion pharmaceutical delivery market in areas inaccessible by traditional infrastructure.
The Palo Alto based company has never had a project like this (we seriously doubt if they have had a project before this at all) where economic constraints play a huge role alongside technological constraints. The drones used by the company cost somewhere near $2,000-5,000 a pop. That’s a significant amount of money if you are planning to develop a whole transportation network using those drones.
The drones can carry 4 pounds of weight and can cover a distance of 20 km at a time. They cannot land just anywhere. They take-off and land on pre-designated landing stations. You add that cost to the cost of entire project and you get a figure that resembles the cost of high-end European infrastructure projects.
The drone’s inability to land anywhere is a significant argument against its quality of service, given the fact that their drones are actually quadcopters. The high installment and maintenance cost is a key factor and we doubt if the Bhutanese government will be able to pay them on its own.