Pelayo says he has already been contacted by many in the open source community who want to help with coding and development. Once that is done, it is over to local people to dictate how it is used.
“A village cooperative in Ghana, for example, could buy a base station,” says Pelayo. “The community would own that node, and figure out how best to use it.”
“That’s our passion,” Wongviriyawong affirms. “Let the local people figure out how best to use it, instead of us delivering a solution to them.”
Currently, the subtleties of the different approaches are difficult to tease apart. For example, Sparks says that Matternet's solution is "application agnostic" as well. "Both Matternet's design and business model are deeply bottom up," she says. "We allow any customer to determine what they would like to do with our technology."
Perhaps it won't be until both are able to demonstrate the technology, that the differences will be clear. And we may not have to wait long.
Both companies, aria and Matternet, are pushing forward quickly, trying to get field tests up and running in the coming months.
Matternet has negotiated a contract with their first client, a global consultancy with a large presence in Turkey. They are moving forward with designs for their prototype quadcopter, and plan to run a pilot project with a UAV expert in Brazil in the coming months.
For its part, aria says it is talking with partners in the Middle East. By mid-year, the company hopes to be on the ground in various locations, conducting analysis of local customer needs. The group is also evaluating whether it the idea could work with water-based autonomous vehicles as well.
“No one approach is the best, or the only one,” Arturo Pelayo says. “And I think different ideas will help jump-start and inspire the entire ecosystem.”
This story was updated on 27 February to include details about aria.