Companies Showcase Drones in Harvard Stadium

Early Saturday morning, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Francis Doyle stood at opposite ends of Harvard Stadium and a saucer-like drone traveled between them, delivering a package of Harvard t-shirts. Dozens of Bostonians and Harvard affiliates, meanwhile, looked on.

Hosted by SEAS, the Business School, and the Harvard Xfund, the event was one of the last of HUBWeek, a weeklong series of educational events in the Greater Boston area.

After opening remarks from Paul Karoff, ‎assistant dean for communications at SEAS, several companies demonstrated their current uses of drone technology.

According to Hugo Van Vuuren ’07, co-founder of Xfund, a Harvard-affiliated seed-stage venture capital founded in 2011, it was an opportunity “to show the power of engineering and entrepreneurship, through a day-long celebration of the emerging robotics industry.”

John R. Aleman, an associate aerospace engineer at CyPhy, which produces commercial drones with photographic capabilities, said that his company plans to roll out its drones at the beginning of next year for a price of $600 each. He said the drone was a essentially a “flying camera,” adding that “when your drone lands everything is ready for you to post on social media.”

Meanwhile, Paola Santana, co-founder of Matternet ONE, said the company's drones were being used to connect rural clinics with urban hospitals in Bhutan. The company has been contacted by the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, regarding the project. Matternet ONE drones, which can each transport up to 2.2 pounds over a 12.4 mile distance, have been used in Bhutan to transport blood samples and medication.

“One of the elements of poverty is that people can not get out of the poverty cycle because they are not connected and consequently do not have access to goods and services,” Santana said. “Is there a way we can use drones to create a 21st century transportation system that doesn’t rely on roads?”

Saturday’s event ended with an aerial drone selfie, apparently the first ever taken at Harvard Stadium, of all the attendees, captured by Michael Kolowich ’74, a founder of the Massachusetts-based video production company DigiNovations.

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