One of Europe’s premier drone delivery firms is ready to take off in the U.S.
Manna, the Irish drone delivery “as-a-service” platform, on Wednesday announced it will expand its service into America by the end of 2022, with a further expansion into mainland Europe slated for 2023.
“Rolling out Manna’s service domestically and internationally has always been part of our strategy. We are delighted that this is going to be achieved,” Bobby Healy, CEO and founder of Manna, said of the expansion. “Expanding into the USA and across Europe in 2022-2023 … shows our rapid growth plans and dedication to our mission.”
Manna’s footprint in Ireland is roughly comparable to the scale that Flytrex enjoyed in the U.S. before expanding its delivery radius last month. Before the expansion, the Israel-based firm had around 40,000 eligible customers in the states. Manna currently serves 45,000 eligible customers in Ireland.
But Flytrex in July grew its customer base by 150%, and Manna is on a similar trajectory. In addition to expanding to the U.S. and Europe, the Irish firm is also developing a new manufacturing site and launching in a large suburb of Dublin with a population of about 100,000. It will increase its headcount by about 50% to meet the demand for the new service.
“Manna is a great example of an indigenous Irish company at the cutting edge of a high-potential growth industry,” said Leo Varadkar, the Tánaiste, or deputy prime minister, of Ireland. “This year Manna has created 50 new jobs in Balbriggan, and I know they have ambitious expansion plans for the future.”
Much like other drone delivery platforms, Manna’s service allows customers to order from a variety of local restaurants and stores. Once an order is placed, a drone will pick it up, fly to the customer’s address at over 35 mph and lower the package using a biodegradable thread. The company says it delivers within three minutes on average.
But speed isn’t the only advantage of the service. Manna recently commissioned a study with the University of Maynooth in Ireland to compare emissions between drone delivery and terrestrial forms of delivery.
It found the company’s drones emit six to eight times less carbon dioxide than a small gas-powered car. And while e-bikes were slightly more efficient, they could take up to twice as long as drones to complete deliveries.
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So far, the firm has already completed 100,000 deliveries in Balbriggan alone. Its self-piloting drones can each handle up to 100 deliveries a day, and a single operator can oversee 20 aircraft at once. In Balbriggan, Manna said it can serve the population of 35,000 with just four drones.
But in order to achieve similar results in the U.S., Manna has some work to do. In Europe, the company is licensed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, the region’s equivalent to the Federal Aviation Administration. But whereas many drone firms rely on waivers from the FAA to get off the ground in the U.S., Manna is ineligible because it is a non-American firm.
Instead, it will need to endure a lengthy process to get its drones certified as aircraft under the FAA’s Part 135 regulations. So far, only a handful of companies have received the certification, including Alphabet’s Wing and UPS Flight Forward. Companies without a Part 135 certification are limited to flying within the operator’s visual line of sight, restricting the delivery radius.
When Manna does arrive in the U.S., though, it will have a few connections to leverage. The firm works with over 30 vendors, most based in Europe, such as Tesco and Applegreen. But it also delivers for a few U.S. brands in Ireland — namely Ben & Jerry’s, Coca-Cola and Subway. Those partnerships could prove valuable as the company looks to find its footing abroad.
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