Topline: An Irish startup is launching a trial of the world’s first drone delivery service that will transport medicines and groceries to elderly and vulnerable people in self-isolation, in yet another sign that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating technological solutions that have been years in the making.
- The drone, developed by drone food delivery start-up Manna Aero, will be trialled from next week in the Irish town of Moneygall, transporting essential goods to self-isolating people who need them the most.
- Manna Aero aims to make 100 trips a day, can carry four kilograms of food in one go, and travels up to 50mph across a four-mile radius, The Times reported. Its location can be traced on the users’ smartphone, which can alert them when their delivery has arrived.
- The technology was initially intended to be a takeaway delivery service in partnership with food delivery giant Just Eat, but the idea has been shifted to suit the pandemic’s unique circumstances as millions are being advised to stay home across Ireland, particularly the elderly and vulnerable.
- The trial is part of a deal with a drugmaker that has not been revealed, according to The Times, and will begin on Monday. It has been authorized by the Irish Aviation Authority.
Crucial quote: Manna Aero CEO Bob Healy said in a statement, reported by The Times: “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.”
Key background: Drone delivery technology has been in talks for some time, with Amazon developing similar technology to deliver its packages to customers, however it is yet to launch the service. It did carry out a trial of its ‘Prime Air’ service in Cambridge, England in December 2016. UPS recently announced a joint venture with German startup Wingcopter to develop delivery drones. But the pandemic, which has forced millions of non-essential businesses across the world to shut down retail locations in recent weeks, could expedite the technology’s time to market as more customers turn to online shopping.
Tangent: Ireland is effectively under a two-week lockdown until April 12, with people only allowed to go out to shop for food and carry out limited exercise. Over-70s and people who are medically vulnerable have been told by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to “cocoon” i.e. not leave their homes.
Source: Forbes Business