TedTalk – Andreas Raptopoulos: No roads? There’s a drone for that

drone 3b  

Title and Link:  No roads? There’s a drone for that (June 2013 – Edinburgh, Scotland)

Presenter: Andreas Raptopoulos is the co-founder and CEO of Matternet, a company with the goal of creating a new paradigm related to transportation using unmanned aerial vehicles.

Key Points – This talk discusses one of the new emerging ideas related to drone technology.  Instead of their normal use for warfare (as most people believe), these drones are instead used to access remote communities.  They can help deliver vital supplies to villages which are not connected to reliable roadways year-round.


  • Over a billion people in the world today don’t have access to all-season roads (totally cut-off from the rest of the world)
    • They can’t get medical attention, critical supplies or even get their own goods to market (to earn an income)
    • In sub-Saharan Africa, 85% of roads are not accessible in the wet season
      • Will take 50 years to catch up on fixing the infrastructure
  • In the US there are 4 million miles of roads
    • These are often congested, have a huge ecological footprint and require a lot of resources to maintaindrone 4b
  • Is there a better way…?
    • Want to do the same thing as what happened with cell phones (leapfrogging technologies and reducing the need for expensive infrastructure across vast distances)
    • Instead of taking days to receive crucial medicine, an electric, autonomous aerial vehicle could deliver it within hours
    • Technology can now be used over a 10km range to carry up to 2kg – takes about 15min

drone 2b             drone b

      • Entire countries could be covered with enough devices (automated logistics)
        • System has 3 parts – flying vehicles, landing stations and routing software
        • Every vehicle can exchange batteries or resources with any ground station
        • Can be used in many climates and different weather conditions
      • It only costs 24 cents per flight
      • Based on internet principals – decentralized, highly adaptable, peer-to-peer, bi-directional, low ecological footprint and low infrastructure costs
    • Can als be used in cities and megacities (which have very inefficient road infrastructure)
    • The idea of drones are very unpopular around the world (due to their use in armed conflict)
      • They can have an amazing impact
      • They can connect people
        • Better access to medicine and vaccines but later can be used for income generation
    • Let’s make it happen!

Final Thoughts – I think that drones definitely have a bad rap, but they can be used for many different purposes, which may be good as well: including medical, road safety, fighting crime/security concerns and agricultural implementations.  The idea of getting emergency supplies to those who cannot be easily accessed by roads is very important.  However, I worry that the 10km flight distance will be limiting, so I hope the technology will catch up quickly.


About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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