Drone Proving Ground -- Bhutan

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image: Matternet

image: Matternet

While the FAA's pace of integrating unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace is excruciatingly slow for drone fans, the small Himalayan country of Bhutan is moving forward. Matternet, a Silicon Valley startup with some big investors backing it, has been testing a drone delivery network there that could help transport critical medical supplies to remote rural communities. Working with the Bhutanese government and the World Health Organization, Matternet is testing four quadcopters that carry loads up to four pounds, using them to connect a central hospital to health centers up to about 10 miles away.

Greek entrepreneur Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO of Matternet, has high hopes for the technology. "We believe that Matternet can do for the transportation of matter what the Internet did for the flow of information," he said at a TED conference last November. Paola Santana, the firm's chief regulatory officer, told the Independent recently, "We want to solve transportation problems in places where there are no roads or places where roads are impassable -- Haiti, Bhutan, New York or Los Angeles." Raptopoulos spoke with AVweb's Glenn Pew about his plans for drone technology, back in 2011.