Galway-based drone delivery project’s ambition is sky high

15 Jul 2021

A Manna drone on a test flight. Image: Manna

Galway-based companies Manna and ÉireComposites will work with NUI Galway on a project, which aims to reduce delivery costs associated with drones.

A collaboration between NUI Galway and two companies, Manna and ÉireComposites will see them work together on a new drone delivery project.

‘Mi-drone’ aims to meet increased consumer demand for fast, reliable, last-mile delivery of medicines and food products using drones.

Testing and manufacturing company ÉireComposites will develop an aerospace grade carbon fibre airframe for drone delivery company Manna.

The companies will be awarded €2.44m from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s disruptive technologies fund.

The mi-drone project will begin immediately with full-scale operational testing to begin at the start of 2023. The goal is to reduce delivery costs associated with drones and to reduce delivery time to three minutes. The drone fleet is operated by Manna directly from the client’s premises and is accessible via API to food tech providers and online food platforms alike in a channel-agnostic manner.

ÉireComposites will coordinate the project, working alongside NUI Galway to develop manufacturing and automation technologies for high-volume manufacturing and testing of drones. The company has a 6,000 sq m fully accredited facility in Inverin, Co Galway.

Tomás Flanagan, ÉireComposites CEO, said: “We are pleased to be working alongside a top innovative business such as Manna on this proposal and to continue our working relationship with NUIG.”

Dr William Finnegan of NUI Galway commented that the university’s collaboration with ÉireComposites and Manna would allow its civil and mechanical engineering programmes to focus on producing graduates to meet future industry needs.

Bobby Healy, CEO and founder of Manna, said he was looking forward to working with ÉireComposites. “Having such an advanced materials player in Ireland was a fantastic opportunity for us to partner with a world leader for our aircraft given their experience at the cutting edge of aerospace and renewables tech.”

Flanagan added: “We are excited to be playing a leading role in the improvement of drone technology. The goal of this project is to fast forward the evolution of drone delivery and we believe this consortium brings with it the best in terms of leadership, vision and manufacturing to make this a reality and to align Ireland as a world leader in both drone delivery technology and manufacturing.”

Beyond Ireland, the consortium believes that the project can expand globally to serve one billion people with last mile delivery, eventually replacing 560,000 cars and vans with drones. Along with this, the project also aims to address sustainability with emissions decreasing by 80pc as a direct result of drones replacing approximately 2,800 vehicles on Irish roads.

Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic