Utopia in Greek means non-existent and it’s just coincidental that Andreas Raptopoulos, a native of Athens, is striving, in his own way, to create a Utopian society where access to essentials and resources is no longer the privilege of a chosen few. Though altruistic in his intent, the 42-year-old is taking an entrepreneurial and not a philanthropic approach to tackle the issue. 3511, Edison Way — home to a modest cubicle-less office-cum-R&D workshop — is where Raptopoulos, along with a 20-member team, is busy developing small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that could redefine the future of transportation.
But drones were not what Raptopoulos, who pursued aeronautics in Greece, had on his mind when he moved to the UK. “I wanted to study design to see how art and science could come together to make tech more relevant and with a user-centric design,” says Raptopoulos, who learnt industrial design engineering at Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. During the 10 years in the UK, he founded two startups: Aylo, a research and engineering workshop, in 2001, and FutureAcoustic in 2006, which created an adaptive acoustic technology for the intelligent sound environment, which was later licensed to the likes of Herman Miller, and Sony among others. It was around 2010, that Raptopoulos got enamoured by robotics and dreamt of creating a self-driving aerial vehicle that could transport humans. Realising the engineering challenge involved in the project, Raptopoulos was contemplating on what he would do next. But as luck would have it, in 2011, the idea got a fresh lease of life during a 10-week entrepreneurial program at Singularity University in California. “Even before we could make aerial vehicles for humans, our idea was to show that it was a safe affair, which meant flying cargo would be far easier than transporting humans,” says Raptopoulos. Digging deeper into the subject what caught Raptopoulos’ attention was the fact that one-seventh of the world’s population lacked access to roads. The thought that began to build was: what if a new vehicle could be created that didn’t require aggregation of goods but could ship even small packages instead of a whole lot? What instead of flying one big cargo plane, there could be t