Manna from heaven: Nationwide drone delivery within 18 months

Opening up airspace to the service will be 'a massive job creator'
Manna from heaven: Nationwide drone delivery within 18 months

A Manna Aero drone is seen as it delivers essential household and medical supplies in the village of Moneygall, following the coronavirus disease outbreak. Picture taken May 8, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff Stock Generic

A drone delivery company operating a trial service in a Galway town plans to roll out its business across Ireland in the next 18 months.

Manna Aero is due to announce the next phase of its expansion, into a large town of around 40,000 people, in the next three weeks.

The company’s CEO Bobby Healy claimed that opening up airspace to drone business will be a “massive job creator” in Ireland.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Institute of International and European Affairs, he said its operation in Oranmore, Co Galway, is a major boost both to local small vendors, like coffee shops, and supermarket giants, like Tesco.

He accepted there are legitimate public concerns over privacy, noise, jobs, safety, and wildlife, but moved to ally those fears.

Mr Healy said they first did a project, in conjunction with the HSE, in the Midlands village of Moneygall, population around 800 people, in March 2020 as the first lockdown kicked in, which involved the delivery of critical food supplies.

Manna Aero did the “first world delivery of a book”, from Oranmore book shop

He said this was followed by a bigger operation in Oranmore, home to almost 10,000, near Galway city.

He said that 30% of the town’s 3,000 homes are now using his company’s service.

“More than half of the deliveries are for coffee, coffee, and croissant or scone,” he said. “That’s new business that didn’t exist before.” 

Mr Healy said the average delivery time is around three minutes.

“The coffee shops we deal with, we deal with two of them, would be closed if not for drones,” he claimed.

He said the company believes Manna Aero did the “first world delivery of a book”, from Oranmore book shop.

Mr Healy, a programmer by profession, said they get orders for a head of broccoli from people about to make their dinner and have it delivered to their homes in under four minutes.

He said they are giving businesses access to 50sqkm of potential customers within minutes, saying these business range from butchers, to electronics stores, to food outlets.

This makes local business more viable and makes living in rural towns more attractive, Mr Healy said.

On fears around privacy, he said the company does not know the names or email addresses of those ordering and does not record video or sound.

He said while consumer-grade drones, costing €500-€600, are “very noisy and angry things”, their drones can’t be heard above 50 metres.

He predicted significant job losses for bike couriers but said drones will bring more jobs to the local businesses.

“Enabling drone airspace will be a massive incremental job creator,” he claimed, adding the likes of restaurants using the major delivery companies pay them a commission of 30%-40% per order, but said they don’t pay his company, as the cost is borne by the buyer.

He said the company’s plan is to “roll out across Ireland” in 18 months and that it will announce its next expansion, in a large town, with a population of around 40,000, in the next three weeks.

*www.iaa.ie/general-aviation/drones; www.easa.europa.eu

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