A fleet of small flying drones could speed up the delivery of medicinesand other supplies to remote areas, and even provide a cheaper alternative to a road network, according to Matternet, a start-up company in the US.

Just as the internet has revolutionised the transport of online data, the company says a network of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – the "matternet" – could do the same for supplies. The company envisages a network of base stations 10km apart, with flying drones carrying packages of up to 2kg between bases. A drone would take only 15 minutes for each trip without needing to recharge or replace its batteries.