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Paola Santana Mateo, Dominican winds in Silicon Valley


A famous song by Ruben Blades says that “life is full of surprises” and Paola Santana Mateo is a proof of that. This young lady found her first job in the Constitutional Court as lawyer.

She was always a good student and this gave her the opportunity to apply for a scholarship in the United States. She went to Georgetown, nothing more and nothing less. She intended to pursue a Masters, but destiny had other plans for her.

Once in the United States, I had the opportunity to do some summer courses at SigularityUniversity located in Silicon Valley, an institution that has among its sponsors to NASA and Google, whose purpose is to gather, educate and inspire a group of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the exponential development of technologies to solve the great challenges of humanity.

In this world so far from the legal issue, Santana joined other foreign students to develop a graduation project, which should have a requirement: impact billion of people within a period of 10 years. The challenge was not easy, but Paola along with Andreas Raptopoulos, DimitarPachov and Darlene Damm decided that all together could offer the world a real opportunity for change, that’s Matternet was born, a network of drones capable of carrying light loads at maximum distances of 10 kilometres for less than RD$1 a kilometre.

Imagine a world where drones, vehicles without pilots, fly over the sky delivering packages instead of military reasons... so overshadowing our existing infrastructure and creating a world connected by tiny and peaceful drones. In the United States, they could replace the aging postal system, they would connect rural communities to markets in emerging countries, thus alleviating poverty and delivering packages of supplies of essential products and services such as medicine “.

Bringing your idea to fruition is the tough part. Before seeing to fly her first “son” Paola and her companions had to develop businesscritical concepts for the company and they had the support of Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis college founders and great mentors. “I’m talking about the year 2010, five years ago I did not even know the word enterprising in English or in Spanish”. Remember“ I did not understand what the word meant”.

Matternet managed to join the business incubator in Silicon Valley; this ensured that the company had the advice of experts and resources to develop its project.

The type of drone developed is “quad copters” using small electric batteries for operation.

We are aware of the limitations, but it serves to cover areas of high population where they would stop every 5 kilometers to deposit or pick up a package, and change the battery on our landing stations”.

A study made by Matternet team in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho in southern Africa, showed that the whole capital of 140 kilometers could be connected by a network of drones for $ 900,000.00 US dollars. In contrast, the construction of a 2 kilometres highway costs one million dollars, “says Santana.” For low-income countries with little infrastructure such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the difference in cost is crucial and the infrastructure provides by Matternet, a network instead of a road, could save lives.

Excited by the turn in her career, Santana never imagined that law degree from the Pontifi cal Universidad Madre y Maestra in Santo Domingo, would be essential to face the next challenge of her rising company: aeronautical regulation.

In the case of the United States, the regulation of commercial spacefl ight is a top issue and although it has not materialized, Paola has the necessary knowledge to establish rules governing the contracts of drones, now she is the legal director of her own company. The fi rst test fl ight of Matternet drones were in the Dominican Republic and several of the pieces that failed to bring in luggage, were performed on a 3D printer from the Technological Institute of the Americas (ITLA). The following tests were conducted in Haiti, months after the earthquake of 2011 which destroyed much of the road infrastructure.

Both tests succeeded, which allowed these entrepreneurs not only to move forward with your project, but call the attention of international media as TheGuardian from Britain and TheHuffi ngton Post in the United States that have echoed the initiative.

In the near future we will have small-scale operations in places where there are great needs, and thus we’ll have a greater impact.” The idea that Matternet also can be used in developed countries is not discarded, although tasks would be more trivial like fi nding your iPhone or your sunglasses. Hey ... What is it that the US Postal Service doesn’t deliver packets on Sundays anymore? Matternet could handle that, “she concludes.”

TEXT: Geizel Torres / Matternet; IMAGES: Geizel Torres / Matternet