Manna partners with Cubic Telecom for Irish drone food delivery plans

9 Jan 2020


A month after raising $3m in seed funding, drone start-up Manna is collaborating with Cubic Telecom to try and make drone food delivery services a reality.

This year’s CES technology exhibition is well underway in Las Vegas, with some of the biggest names in tech revealing new ideas and making exciting new product announcements.

Among the Irish companies present at CES 2020 are Cubic Telecom and drone delivery company Manna, who have announced an unexpected partnership. Together, the telecoms business and the drone start-up are collaborating with the end goal of launching a new high-speed food delivery service in the US and Europe.

Cubic Telecom will provide its services to Dublin-based Manna to enable the company to track, monitor and control its drone fleets, which will deliver food from restaurants and centralised kitchens directly to consumers’ homes.

Food delivered in a matter of minutes?

Manna’s drones, connected by Cubic Telecom, could be capable of autonomously delivering customers’ meals while flying at a height of up to 80 metres and at a speed of 80kph. The two companies estimate that this could facilitate delivery within three minutes, which is a fraction of the existing rate expected by customers.

In a statement, Cubic Telecom said: “Cubic’s software is embedded into Manna’s drones at the manufacturing stage, allowing for real-time data to be exchanged between the drone, the restaurant and the customer, thus enabling seamless communication.

“Cubic’s Pace connectivity platform has successfully underpinned the global connectivity strategy of several car manufacturers and it is now embedded in millions of cars across 93 markets, enabling seamless connectivity for drivers while delivering significant supply chain economies and efficiencies for OEMs,” the company added.

Manna has begun test operations at Pontypool, Wales, and has its sights set on securing three more test sites in Ireland and another in the UK by Q3 2020, according to CNet.

While the company may have lofty plans for its drone delivery, we might not see 5G drones carrying burgers across the sky just yet. Some of the biggest names in technology, including Amazon, Uber and Google, have been devising similar drone delivery schemes for years, coming up against regulatory issues and concerns about noise, privacy and safety.

The future of last-mile delivery

Cubic Telecom CEO Barry Napier said: “Everyone is waiting for the commercial drone delivery market to take off as we all see the true potential in revolutionising the delivery services industry.

“Cubic’s experience in delivering proven global connectivity solutions with real-time analytics across the globe will enable Manna’s custom-developed autonomous service to reduce the cost and time of deliveries, while lessening the overall environmental impact.

“The team and I are looking forward to expanding into a new vertical and collaborating with the innovative team at Manna.”

While making the announcement in Las Vegas at CES 2020, Manna CTO Alan Hicks said: “The future of last-mile delivery is an airborne one. One of the most difficult challenges in making that work at scale is reliable communications between our drone fleet and our cloud services layer.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Cubic for this critical component of our technology stack – bringing us one step closer to our dream of pervasive, autonomous drone delivery for the planet.”

The news comes a month after Manna announced a $3m seed round. At the time, CEO Bobby Healy said: “It’s more about showing the world what it looks like. Not everyone will think this is the best thing since sliced bread. We have to involve the community and local government. There is no future in a company like ours if we just bully everyone and roll ahead.”

Manna aims to raise its next round of funding in the second quarter of 2020.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic