It’s fitting that on this St. Patrick’s Day, we check in with Irish drone delivery startup, Manna, which is beginning to take off. The company is now doing between 50 and 100 deliveries per day in the city of Galway, Ireland, Manna CEO and Founder, Bobby Healy told me during a video chat this week.
Galway is a city of 80,000 people on the western coast of Ireland. Manna has established a drone takeoff platform on top of a Tesco in town, and makes food and drink deliveries with partners like the Camile Thai restaurant chain.
According to Healy, the average drone delivery time from takeoff is three minutes, with the drones flying between 50 and 80 meters (164 to 262 ft.) high at a speed of 80 km/h (50 mph).
When users place an order, they designate a specific area on their property for the drone to fly to. For example, when ordering from Camile, customers use the Camile app and select drone delivery. They are then presented with a GoogleMap image of their home that has been divided into a grid. The user picks a specific grid. When the drone arrives, it hovers 15 meters (50 ft) above that spot and lowers the food down by tether via a biodegradable linen thread.
One Manna drone can do between six and seven deliveries per hour, and a single drone operator can do 20 deliveries in an hour. A typical payload from Camile is five to six pounds, which includes two meals and drinks, and with an average flight time of just three minutes, food and lattes arrive still hot and is delivered in a contactless manner.
Even though the drone program is still in the pilot phase, Camile Founder & CEO Brody Sweeney said during that same video chat that Manna is doing almost 70 percent of Camile’s deliveries in Galway. “This is a real part of our future,” Sweeney said, “We are primarily suburban based, so drones are perfect for delivery. We haven’t worked out all the details, but we think it will be less than [current car-based] delivery.”
Healy said Manna is making deliveries at night and its drones can even brave inclement weather like rain and wind, though the energy output to do so is greater and limits the total number of trips a drone can make.
We’ve seen a lot of movement for drone delivery over the last year. Dragontail Systems is starting to do pizza delivery by drones in Tel Aviv, Israel. Walmart is testing drone delivery with Flytrex in North Carolina. And iFood is making drone deliveries in Brazil.
While there has been definite progress in drone delivery, there are still regulatory issues that must be overcome. Here in the U.S. the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clarified its rules around safety at the end of last year. And Healy said that Manna is working with European regulators to conduct flights that aren’t line of sight.
Healy said that Manna will be bringing its service to the U.S. during Q2 of this year, and a broader rollout around the world over the next 18 months. He also said that Manna should be serving 100,000 customers by July of this year.
CORRECTION: This article originally misstated the population of Galway as 10,000. It is 80,000, and Manna is servicing 10,000 of them. We regret the error.