UCD campus first stop for drone takeaway food delivery

Manna drone will hover at 10m and lower food to clients on biodegradable linen string

Drone delivery company Manna plans to pilot its takeaway food delivery service on the campus of University College Dublin from the end of March.

The fleet of drones will deliver food directly from the restaurant to the customer – staff and students on campus – transporting it inside the cargo area of the drone until it reaches its destination. The drone will hover about 10m above the ground and the delivery will be lowered to the recipient on a biodegradable linen string, with the process taking a matter of seconds.

The company, founded by serial entrepreneur Bobby Healy, has signed up takeaway service Just Eat and restaurant Camile Thai as its first commercial partners for its food delivery service.

Manna is planning to gradually roll out the delivery service via drones to other restaurants and takeaways. The company previously expected to begin a pilot service in 2019.


Three minutes after cooking

The new delivery service will allow online meal ordering systems, restaurant chains and industrial kitchens to deliver meals to customers in local communities within three minutes of being cooked, for a lower cost, according to the company. The drones have a range of about 40sq km from the restaurant base.

“I am extremely proud of the team and what we have built. It is a pleasure to work with such high-calibre partners on our project next month in Dublin – our first European launch in University College Dublin,” Mr Healy said. “It’s clear that drone delivery provides a faster, cleaner, safer, cheaper and higher-quality alternative to road-based delivery. We are excited about how that will improve the world.”

Road advantage

He said that, if successful, the service will remove delivery vehicles from the roads, cut down on packaging and potentially offer a more efficient way to deliver not only food but other goods.

Manna has been working closely with the Irish Aviation Authority for the past three years with a view to launching the commercial service.

The plan is to roll out the service slowly, taking into account the technology and the potential opposition from communities.

Managing director of Just Eat Ireland Amanda Roche-Kelly said the system was groundbreaking. "Transforming the business of food delivery as we know it, this coming together of two complementary services will greatly improve the delivery experience for our customers and further adds to the countless ways we connect people with food, everywhere," she said.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist