Earlier today, we posted this story about Zipline planning to make deliveries by drone in the United States to help fight the Coronavirus crisis. Now, we learn that an Irish startup called Manna Aero is planning to provide similar services to self-isolated people in Ireland who are in need of medication and groceries.
So far the Coronavirus crisis has pushed the use of drones to the foreground. We have seen police in China, France, Spain, Australia and the U.S. use drones to communicate to people on the ground and to instruct them to stay inside. We have also seen the use of modified agricultural drones to spray disinfectants in public areas. Delivering medical supplies by drone is not entirely new. Zipline has already completed more than 34,000 such deliveries in countries like Rwanda. But what is new, is for these drone deliveries to be implemented in countries like the U.S. and Ireland where the regulations are stricter and the airspace is busier.
Manna Aero to start delivering medication by drone
Manna Aero will start testing its drone delivery services next week in the Irish town of Moneygall. During the trial essential goods will be delivered by drone to self-isolated people, according to Forbes.
The fixed-wing drones from Manna Aero can carry up payloads of up to 8 Lbs across a 4-mile test radius at a speed of up to 50 mph. The startup is planning to complete up to 100 trips per day. The deliveries by drone can be tracked on a smartphone.
Once the drone arrived at its destination it will hover in place for a limited time at about 30 feet of elevation, so that the recipient can acknowledge its presence on their phone. The drone will then use its camera to look for a safe place such as a driveway to lower the cargo without landing.
Originally Manna Aero’s technology was developed to bring takeout food to customers from the food delivery company Just Eat, but now with the rapidly escalating Coronavirus crisis, the drone company has shifted its focus to elderly and other vulnerable people who are stuck at home.
The Times reported that the drone delivery trial is done in partnership with a undisclosed drug maker and that the test flights will start this Monday. The Irish Aviation Authority has approved the drone flights.
Manna Aero is also in talks with the UK air traffic control service to possible expand their operations to the UK, but nothing has been agreed to as of yet.
In a statement reported by The Times, Manna Aero CEO Bob Healey said: “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.”
Manna Aero has identified 600 locations across rural Ireland where their drone delivery services can be deployed once the tests have been completed successfully.
People in Ireland have effectively been under a two-week lockdown until April 12th, 2020. Only to shop for food or for limited excercise are people allowed to leave their homes. Medically vulnerable people and those who are 70-years and older have been advised not to go out at all by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Photo credits: The Times and Manna Aero.