Oranmore, Ireland, where coffee and broccoli are coming in by drone

Ever since the small Irish town of Oranmore became a test bed for its drone delivery service, there’s been plenty of surprises for Manna Aero.

Last October Manna Aero began an extensive trial in the small town, located on the outskirts of Galway on the west coast of Ireland. All of the shops in town were given the opportunity to have their goods delivered to people by drone — from the pharmacy and hardware store to the local coffee shop and Thai takeaway. Anything up to a weight of 2kg can be delivered. Manna Aero charges the retailers a fixed subscription fee for the delivery service, and retailers, in turn, are charging customers somewhere between €3 and €5 for the delivery.

“We had someone order a head of broccoli. Who orders a head of broccoli for drone delivery? The broccoli cost 79 cents — and then they paid €5 for the delivery,” says Bobby Healy, founder and chief executive of Manna Aero, an Irish start-up developing a drone delivery as a service.

“My favourite one was someone at nine in the evening ordering a tub of nappy cream and a melon. You can see the nappy cream might have been an emergency if they had run out. But then they decided to add a melon to the order, you know, because they could.”

These items would have been delivered to the customer in around 200 seconds — just under three and a half minutes — flown from the roof of the town’s Tesco superstore by one of Manna’s two-metre drones (about the same wingspan as a bald-headed eagle), and gently lowered to the doorstep on a long rope while the drone hovered overhead.

According to sifted.eu, Manna Aero, which recently applied for a licence to operate under the new EU drone regulations that came into force last month, has plans to offer drone delivery services across Europe, in particular flying takeaway meals and groceries to people’s doorsteps.

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