21 Dec 2021

Business is Buzzing: Coffees on the Fly with Drone Deliveries

Drone Deliveries

There is an understandable scepticism about drone deliveries in the business world.

One of the main reasons for this is the collapse of Amazon’s Prime Air project earlier this year, which caused over 100 employees to lose their jobs and prompted anonymous insiders to describe managers as “detached from reality”. If a business whose revenue eclipses the GDP of many countries can’t make the drone dreamwork, who can?

However, an unlikely contender has just entered the ring.

Manna is a drone delivery business based in Galway, Ireland, and planning to take its tech across Europe and even over to Canada. They’re mostly interested in delivering food, with CEO Bobby Healy claiming that even a steaming latte, complete with foam art, can be flown to the customer without putting a single bubble of microfoam out of place. Right now, the skies above Galway see up to 3000 flights a day, with full autonomous drones using radar and lidar to choose their landing spots, drop off deliveries and immediately take off again for their next delivery.

Faster and Cheaper, but is it better?  

With no need to take breaks or swerve through traffic, these drones operate at about 10% of the cost of a Deliveroo or Uber Eats driver and can average as many as eight deliveries an hour across the Galway region. Most importantly, these drones aren’t (yet) demanding a wage, so instead of paying one staff member $9 an hour to make an average of two deliveries, the same worker can supervise multiple drones, making up to 20 deliveries in the same time frame. Put simply, Manna is looking at one-tenth of the costs associated with moving products as the big-name food delivery services. On top of that, delivering “as the drone flies” is a whole lot faster than by road – Manna’s average delivery time is only three minutes.

What’s next for Manna? Europe and Canada.

Despite still being a Galway-only operation, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has given Manna permission to operate across the European market. Bobby Healy, however, plans to expand slowly, hoping to expand to another town in the next 6 months, and across Ireland in the following year. They’re even making inroads in Canada, whose regulations around drones are a little more relaxed than in the US. This local-based approach may well explain the success of this Irish start-up with a concept that Amazon couldn’t get off the ground.

Manna Drone

Preparing for Take-Off

Though not all markets seem to be ready for Manna, Manna certainly seems ready for them. Healy believes that even in larger cities, the lidar capabilities of the drones means it would take “no more than a week” to install the infrastructure needed for the business to operate.

Of course, this low barrier to entry, coupled with Mana’s slow rate of expansion does leave plenty of room open for competitors. In this case, one company’s success may well pave the way for a new generation of global competitors.

Strange as it sounds, we may soon be ordering coffees from airborne bots. But will they be Irish?