Irish drone operator bins fast food for medical drops

Moneygall, IRELAND (Reuters) – Ireland’s Manna Aero ought to have been dropping off its first takeaway orders round a Dublin college campus by drone in March however then the coronavirus pandemic shut the nation and its pilot programme down.

Within per week, the drone firm was testing out a completely completely different idea – delivering medicine and significant provides to remoted aged individuals whom the Irish authorities had informed to remain residence to keep away from an infection.

Manna labored with Ireland’s well being service operator to check out the system in Moneygall, the small midlands city finest recognized for its ancestral hyperlinks to former U.S. President Barack Obama, who visited in 2011.

After weeks of flying to and from residents’ houses, the native pharmacy and comfort retailer – positioned on the Barack Obama Plaza motorway service station – Manna says it has proved the know-how works.

“We wanted to do something small but meaningful that would be representative of what the future might look like either in an extended lockdown or a repeated lockdown in the future,” Manna Aero chief government and founder Bobby Healy informed Reuters.

“Long term, we know that the future is going to have drone delivery. This helps with hearts and minds around how important, how safe and how practical autonomous delivery is going to be while at the same time genuinely helping a small town under really difficult circumstances.”

Manna, which counts Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, an early Facebook backer, amongst its traders, will proceed the deliveries on a non-commercial foundation and will cowl round 600 cities of comparable dimension across the nation by the top of the 12 months if the federal government needs, Healy stated.

With one drone able to making 100 4-kilogramme deliveries a day, that might contain not solely the 450 licensed drone pilots in Ireland but in addition a few of the many pilots Ryanair and IAG-owned Aer Lingus have stated they plan to let go because of the coronavirus disruption.

In Moneygall, locals are operating a devoted cellphone line somewhat than a cell phone software so weak residents like Fidelma Gleeson, 70, can order bread and milk, and have her prescription medicines delivered to the door.

“Well it means an awful lot to me. I thought I’d never see the day that that would happen, that I wouldn’t have to be getting into my car and going into town to collect it,” she stated.

While Manna, which partnered with food supply large Just Eat on the postponed college mission, hopes in the end to interchange road-based supply, the COVID-19 mission is private to Healy and Manna’s workers of 23.

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“My mother is 76 years old. If she was in Moneygall, I have no doubt whatsoever that she would be constantly going up to the shop and putting her life at risk,” stated Healy, a former chief know-how officer at on-line automobile rent brokerage CarTrawler.

“If we’re asking elderly people to do something really difficult, we should do everything we can to make that easy for them.”

(This story corrects spelling of firm title to Manna, not Mana in paragraphs 4, 11)

Reporting by Padraic Halpin, enhancing by Ed Osmond