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With limited access to grocery stores during pandemic, drone delivery offers businesses a high-tech boost



As the coronavirus pandemic still rages and decimates local businesses, Manna, a drone delivery company, obtained approval in late October to launch its service in Oranmore, Ireland.

Suburban town of 10,000 people, located on the west coast of Emerald Isle, marks one of the biggest tests yet for commercial drone delivery and proves to be a success for once-considered technology like a novelty.

Manna’s biggest partner is grocery giant Tesco, but the drone delivery option has proven to be a boon for local businesses, from mom and pop cafes to bookstores, as they battle for stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic. Manna makes her money by charging customers a few euros, which is equivalent to road delivery services. Retailers don’t pay a dime to use it.

“There’s an opportunity here that’s starting to show up for small local vendors in the suburbs,” said Manna Founder and CEO Bobby Healy. Fortune.

While Manna is a startup and used to being nimble, Healy says the pandemic has helped accelerate the launch in Oranmore and paves the way for even bigger markets as local businesses seek to compete with Amazon’s speed and to generate income during a difficult commercial time.

“When you deal with regulators and leaders in government and health services, we have decisions from these entities that have been happening for days and that might otherwise take years of lobbying,” Healy says. “We could say that there were 10,000 people in this city. It is not good that people have to go out and do things that otherwise would have to go through a delivery service. Making this point is much easier in the days of COVID. “

Manna has partnered with grocery giant Tesco and now serves an area of ​​3,000 homes, where people have access to more than 20,000 items to deliver.
Boyd challenger

Operating in the Oranmore market is a learning experience for Manna, as it allows the drone company to test their technology in a city known for its windy weather, but it also turns out to be a win for the companies. locals and residents looking for a socially distant way to shop.

There are over 20,000 items available from Manna’s partners, including COVID-19 test kits, with the latter free of delivery charges. (Frontline medical workers also get free shipping, with chocolate and coffee being the most popular options.)

Siobhán O’Neill, who is staying at home in Oranmore with her husband and 6-year-old twins, says Fortune it is second nature now to order by drone.

“We ordered small pieces,” says O’Neill. “The first time, it was to allow the children to experience it. We ordered Thai food from a new restaurant that had opened nearby. Then we ordered hot chocolates for the kids and breakfast items.

The local Thomas & Co cafe is one of the most popular places for drone delivery. Under the current lockdown restrictions in Ireland, the shop only offers take-out and before partnering with Manna, it had never offered delivery. Now his lattes and caffeine fly through the skies in silent drones traveling at 80 miles per hour. Once at their destination, the drones hover and lower customers’ caffeine to the ground using biodegradable flax twine.

Manna founder Bobby Healy meets with the Irish Aviation Authority by teleconference on January 9, 2021.
Courtesy of Manna

According to Manna spokesperson Richard Forde, more than 100 orders are placed every day by businesses in the city, with the typical commute time taking less than three minutes.

Coffee and sweets make up about half of the orders, but people also use Manna to avoid rushing to the grocery store or when they don’t want to wait. Amazon.

“Amazon can take three days to deliver a book to Oranmore, but we can do it in three minutes from a local bookstore,” Healy explains. “There is a new book called Champagne Football, and someone bought it by drone and got it a few minutes after purchase. “

Healy also has another favorite example of the anonymous shopping list he saw in Oranmore.

“Someone ordered a head of broccoli. Just a head of broccoli. Emergency broccoli! Healy said. “People absolutely love the concept, but at the same time they are committing to it for the utility.

Drones have become a part of everyday life in Oranmore now, but O’Neill says the thrill of receiving a delivery has yet to dissipate among children and adults.

“Even though we have received drone deliveries so often over the past few months, all the neighbors are still knocking on the door and saying, ‘The drone is coming! so kids and adults can come out and watch, ”she says. “It’s so exciting and impressive to see it coming, especially in the dark.”

The future of drone deliveries

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States made one of the most significant changes to drone laws in recent years, paving the way for companies to fly at night and over people.

The concessions do not come without controversy. According to LITTLE.

With regulatory hurdles removed, Manna has evolved at lightning speed over the past several months to serve more people than expected.
Courtesy of Manna

Wing, the drone delivery arm of Alphabet, opposed Remote ID in a blog post on December 28, 2020.

“American communities would not accept this type of monitoring of their deliveries or their taxi rides on the road. They shouldn’t accept it in heaven, ”Wing wrote in the blog post explode the remote identification requirement. “Over the next 18 months, we urge the FAA to expand the channels through which an operator can comply with FAA remote identification requirements, enabling compliance through broadcast or network technologies.

Healy, who built Manna with a privacy-driven approach and doesn’t collect tracking data, says he’s convinced the new FAA rules can keep privacy at the forefront while empowering more communities and businesses. local communities to benefit from drone delivery.

He declined to share Manna’s first market in the United States, but an announcement is imminent.

“We’re going to be in the United States in the second quarter of this year and it’s because of what the FAA is doing,” Healy says. “We can’t wait to be there.”

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