Manna drones could land in the US as soon as this year

10 Aug 2022

Image: Manna

While it plots an international expansion, Irish drone delivery start-up Manna is eyeing a launch in a Dublin suburb with a population of 100,000.

The sky is not the limit for Irish drone delivery pioneer Manna as it aims to launch one of the world’s largest drone-based delivery services in Dublin soon.

Founded in 2018 by CEO Bobby Healy, Manna is on a mission to disrupt the food delivery space using drone technology to eliminate the need for human drivers. The start-up has been trialling its technology in areas across Ireland since 2019.

Its most recent pilot has been in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, where it teamed up with local providers such Blasta Street Kitchen, Bó Bainne, Applegreen and Tesco to provide fast and low-carbon deliveries to the 35,000-strong community.

At an official launch event attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar today (10 August), Manna said it is eyeing a US expansion by the end of this year and a European one next year. However, Healy clarified the US expansion will be a project and not a commercial launch.

In Balbriggan, the start-up aims to double the number of drone flights per day to 200 by the end of 2022. There are currently four Manna drones at its site in Balbriggan, each of which has the capacity to complete around 75 deliveries every day, according to Healy.

“In a town like Balbriggan with 35,000 people, you’re going to reach a maximum of about 200, maybe 300, deliveries a day anyway in that town,” he told

“So, the reason we think in these numbers is that by stretching to 200 deliveries a day, you’re really showing the world what full use of drone delivery looks like.”

Where will Manna deliver next?

In the coming weeks, the start-up is expected to reveal the name of a Dublin suburb with a population of around 100,000 where its next delivery site will open.

Healy said that he isn’t focused on “making money or growing the business to the max right now”. Instead, he wants to streamline Manna’s activities around building its new certified aircraft, which can fly fully without any of the observers needed for its current fleet.

“What we’re interested in is, what is the process? What are all the software systems and hardware systems along the way? And what’s the perfect way to do it? You only need to do that in one place.”

Healy aims to “perfect” the drone delivery service in Balbriggan and move on to replicate its success in the new 100,000-person suburb. “Once we’re at the 100,000 people mark, then we’ll be able to say we’re ready to scale this and we’ll scale it across Ireland and beyond.”

In addition to launch plans in this new suburb, Manna is also set to develop a new manufacturing site to meet demand for its service.

Varadkar, who is a big fan of drones, said at the event: “Manna is a great example of an indigenous Irish company at the cutting edge of a high-potential growth industry. This year Manna has created 50 new jobs in Balbriggan, and I know they have ambitious expansion plans for the future.”

The start-up will be helped by the more than €30m in investment it has raised to date.

‘Intentional flight termination’

When asked about one of its drones that crashed in a public space in Balbriggan last month, Healy clarified that the “intentional flight termination” was a result of the drone processor detecting an anomaly in the form of excessive vibrations in one of the machine’s arms.

Security measures put in place in the system triggered the drone to deploy the parachute on board the aircraft, causing it to “glide to the ground at parachute speed, which is four metres per second” and damage itself without causing any safety issues.

“In addition to the parachute, we also have what’s called a rally system,” Healy said. “The rally system is where, if the aircraft or one of our human operators detects an off-nominal event, they can send the aircraft to what’s called a rally point.”

He added that while there are 15 such safe-for-landing rally points around Balbriggan, “in this case, we concluded that it was safe to land where we did land”.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic