In Bhutan, Drones Used to De­liver Med­i­cal Ma­te­rial

Bhutan Times - - Editorial - By NEWLEY PUR­NELL

In Bhutan, a U.S. startup called Mat­ter­net con­ducted a trial pro­ject to send med­i­cal sup­plies to re­mote clin­ics in the Hi­malayan coun­try. Here, chil­dren ex­am­ine one of the drones.

SIN­GA­PORE–Half a dozen men gath­ered around a work­bench in a gov­ern­ment build­ing one morn­ing as Tack Wai Wong, an en­gi­neer­ing ex­pert clad in a crisp white shirt and gray trousers, took his place at the front of the ta­ble.

“Once upon a time all of this was mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy,” said Mr. Wong, 50 years old, as he ran his fin­gers along the ro­tors of one of sev­eral small un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles spread out be­fore him. “Now you can make drones your­self.”

The work­shop was aimed at teach­ing peo­ple in this tightly con­trolled city-state how to fly drones safely—and maybe even hatch ideas for com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions.

The U.S. is a hot­bed for com­mer­cial drone star­tups, and the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion in Fe­bru­ary pro­posed long-awaited rules for drones that will likely make their use even more wide­spread in the coun­try.

But drone star­tups are in­creas­ingly tak­ing flight across Asia. They are us­ing the crafts to lo­cate faulty so­lar pan­els in Sin­ga­pore, prospect land in the Philip­pines, map plan­ta­tions in Thai­land and more. While com­pa­nies also use such ap­pli- cations in other parts of the world, en­trepreneurs here are work­ing with co­op­er­a­tive gov­ern­ments in some places, tak­ing ad­van­tage of lax reg­u­la­tions in oth­ers, and pro­vid­ing ser­vices that ap­peal to lo­cal mar­kets in new ways.

In one re­cent pro­ject, Mat­ter­net, Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup, joined with the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and the gov­ern­ment of Bhutan to de­liver med­i­cal ma­te­ri­als from doc­tors to re­mote hos­pi­tals in the Hi­malayan na­tion, said Mat­ter­net’s co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive, An­dreas Rap­topou­los.

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