Irish startup plans UK’s First Drone Takeaway Service

After applying for an airspace license, an Irish start-up plans to deliver Britain’s very first takeaways via drone.

The Dublin-based Manna plans to launch their first UK service during the first half next year. Manna already delivers groceries, meals and coffee with its autonomous aircraft in Ireland.

Launching the service is expected to start a race between tech companies. Both Amazon and Wing (Google’s sister company) are increasing their air delivery operations.

Drone delivery is seen as faster and cheaper than human messengers , although the much hyped technology has taken longer to become part of everyday life.

Bobby Healy said that the chief executive of Manna, Bobby Healy had submitted a detailed application for a licence to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The company hopes to launch its service in a British suburban area next year. This would cover around 100,000 homes.

Mr Healy refused to specify where the deliveries would take place in the UK, but said that between 10 and fifteen aircraft would be involved. They will each make 500 to 1,000 deliveries per day.

He said: “The UK probably is our most important European market, both from a cultural perspective and in terms of market size.” “The UK delivers over 900m meals and takeaways every year.”

Britain used to be a popular destination for drone operators. Amazon chose a location near Cambridge, Massachusetts in order to conduct their first tests over a decade earlier.

The company has never started commercial operations. Instead, it moved testing to the US, before making its initial deliveries this year.

The CAA made recent progress in allowing autonomous drones. They adopted a safety standard similar to that of the EU, and granted limited licences. Manna was granted a license for a limited trial at a technology event earlier this year.

Healy, however, said that the regulator only granted drone licences to areas where no other aircraft were present, thus limiting their potential in Britain’s crowded airspace.

Manna delivered more than 160,000 packages by drone in Ireland, from locations such as Tesco and Subway. There was only one incident where a drone deployed a parachute.

The app is used to place orders, and the drones are loaded at the store. The drone hovers above the destination and lowers the cargo.

The drones are quieter than cars and can deliver most orders in less than three minutes, according to the company.

Manna, a Welsh drone manufacturer, has raised $30m (£25m), including from Molten Ventures, a British venture capital firm, and Patrick and John Collison – the Irish brothers who founded Stripe, a payment giant.