Irish drone delivery company Manna Aero is the first operator in Ireland to receive the light UAS operator certificate (LUC) from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). This opens the door to start delivering meals, packages, or medical goods using drones in other EU countries as well. In the Irish city of Galway, the company has already operated 100-150 flights a day in recent months.
Drone delivery Manna Aero first Irish operator with LUC certificate
Manna Aero was founded in 2018 by Bobby Healy with the aim of making commercial drone food delivery a reality. To this end, the company had its own ‘aviation grade’ delivery drone developed, which can deliver 2 kg of cargo within a radius of a few kilometers. In 2019, the company raised five million euros in capital. In 2020, the company began a pilot meal delivery program on a campus south of Dublin. The company also sees opportunities in the field of regular parcel delivery. From the roof of a supermarket in Galway, there are already 100-150 flights a day to customers in the area.
The company was the first Irish operator to apply for a light UAS operator certificate (LUC) from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). Thanks to the experience gained in recent years and the collaboration with the IAA, the application was quickly granted. The LUC is a new license form for drone companies that want to become active in the so-called Specific category, for drone flights with a higher risk. A LUC enables operators to prepare risk analyzes and then assess them themselves. In principle, the certificate is recognized by all countries that are members of EASA.
According to Diarmuid Ó Conghaile of the IAA, the award of the LUC is an important step for Manna Aero and the Irish drone community in general. “The LUC is an exciting development in European drone regulation. It gives Irish companies such as Manna Aero access to a potential European market of more than half a billion customers. Drone services are an important part of the green technology mix in Europe and offer a competitive alternative to traditional services.”
Manna founder Healy is also delighted with the award of the LUC. “This achievement marks the culmination of our two-year partnership with the IAA and is a strong support for Manna, the emerging European drone delivery industry, and Ireland as the technology epicenter for drone technology. We thank EASA and IAA for their vision and leadership, our delivery partners, and of course our amazing pilot customers in Oranmore and Moneygall for helping us get this far.”
The granting of the LUC does not mean that Manna can immediately start delivering meals by drone in all EU countries. Although the LUC certificate is recognized throughout Europe, national aviation authorities retain control over what happens in their own airspace. For example, additional requirements can be imposed on operators at a national level, especially if they want to fly their drones out of sight of the pilot (BVLOS) and over populated areas.
According to Healy, people are generally positive about drone delivery. However, there are a number of factors that put the brakes on drone delivery: noise pollution, privacy concerns, safety, and the fear that drones will cause job losses. Healy also mentions the abuse of drones in general as a threat to the sector. Nevertheless, Healy believes that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages and that drone delivery is many times more efficient than traditional delivery methods.
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