CEO of Matternet says drones require infrastructure

Jeff Bezos promised 10 years ago to color the skies with a fleet of drones that would fly across cities to deliver consumers their every Amazon desire. 

His prophecy has yet to come true, but Andreas Raptopoulos, the founder and CEO of Matternet, says his company is taking big steps towards that vision of a drone-filled future. Matternet recently became the first non-military drone company to attain the type of FAA certification that allows it to transport deliveries to people. (Before that, companies had been operating under a special exemption process with the government agency.) 

But even with Matternet’s certification, our drone-filled future won’t necessarily be coming to fruition overnight. 

“For drone delivery to happen, you really need to have infrastructure that can support this type of new layer of transportation at scale,” Raptopoulos said Tuesday at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Deer Valley, Utah.

He said that infrastructure will require comprehensive regulation from airspace regulators. But it also depends on the drones themselves. Commercial delivery will require a safe, airworthy craft to scale. Still, he’s hopeful over the long term. 

“Our vision is that anything that is lightweight and urgent will be transported by the air, and we feel that this is going to be a layer of transportation, a layer of logistics that’s going to be taken for granted by future generations” Raptopoulos said. 

The company has been operating in Switzerland since 2017, and in 2019, it partnered with UPS  in the U.S. to deliver medical supplies in North Carolina and Florida. 

It’s hard to predict, though, when drones will hit larger consumer markets. Raptopoulos is hoping that new FAA plans for regulations scheduled for release in February of 2024 will give some clarity for the industry to move forward.  

“That’s the next bit of regulation that needs to come into place,” Raptopoulos said.

He believes that eventually, drone delivery will be akin to the internet, humming seamlessly in the background of your life, “magically” delivering products. 

If you’re not the CEO of Matternet, it might seem like only science fiction novels have drones delivering packages instead of the postal workers. But Raptopoulos said someday drones as a common delivery tool won’t just be in novels. 

“Given enough time, it’s going to happen,” Raptopoulos said.

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