It is often highlighted by historians, and others who take interest in such matters, that times of crisis and acute need are the most common catalyst to technological progress. Leaps forward in technology are made when necessity adds both urgency and unplugs bottlenecks such as red tape.
And the current Covid-19 pandemic crisis looks like proving that age old maxim once again. Drone delivery services have been mooted for a few years now but also still looked like being a few more away. But that timescale has been fast forwarded and the world’s first commercial drone delivery service will start dropping off food and medical supplies to self-isolating households in the village of Moneygall, Ireland.
The drones themselves are built in south Wales but it’s a home-grown Irish start-up, Manna Aero, that is behind the project. The drones are battery powered and use autonomous technology, rather than being controlled by operators. They will take off from a base near the village and can travel at hp to 50mph within a four-mile radius, carrying packages weighing up to 9lb (4 kg).
Once the delivery drones arrive at their drop-off destination, they hover nearby at a height of 9 metres until the recipient confirms they are present and ready to receive their package through a smartphone app. The drone’s cameras then guide it to a safe drop-off spot such as a driveway or garden, and lower the package. Packages are carried in a cargo compartment built into the 1.75 m by 2.1 m drones.
Manna Aero has said that a single drone can make up to 100 flights a day. The start-up has signed a partnership deal with an unnamed pharmaceuticals company to bring forward the service’s launch to Monday next week. It will be funded by the partner and offered free of charge to self-isolating recipients of deliveries.
The service had originally been planned to start as a fast food delivery service in partnership with Just Eat and serving the Dublin area. Plans for that launch were suspended as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak but the new operation means the service will actually be operating sooner than expected. Just in a different, more important, capacity.
It is believed the trial will represent the world’s first full-scale commercial drone delivery service. Companies such as Amazon have developed comparable technologies but have still to launch them as a commercial service. Special permission for the trial was given by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), which must approve drone flights beyond the line of human sight.
Manna Aero says talks have also taken place with Nats, the UK air traffic control equivalent to the IAA about bringing the company’s technology and service to Britain but agreement has not yet been reached. The UK’s Department of Transport is also planning its own tests around drones delivering urgent medical supplies to the Isle of Wight from hospitals in Southampton and Portsmouth.
Manna Aero CEO Bobby Healy, who says the drones should soon be operating from up to 600 rural locations across Ireland, commented:
“This is targeted at the elderly and the vulnerable; people who have been told to stay inside their homes. What they need is critical food supplies and prescription medication and that’s what we will deliver”.
“We can carry anything between two and four kilos and can travel for a four miles radius so can easily cover any suburban or rural town with a strong delivery service.”
This article is for information purposes only.
Please remember that financial investments may rise or fall and past performance does not guarantee future performance in respect of income or capital growth; you may not get back the amount you invested.
There is no obligation to purchase anything but, if you decide to do so, you are strongly advised to consult a professional adviser before making any investment decisions.