Drone-delivered take-away meals will soon be a reality for UCD students, as news comes out that Manna will launch this month. Manna, founded by Bobby Healy, is promising to facilitate the delivery of food within three minutes of ordering via the use of autonomous, aviation-grade drones. These will be operated by the restaurants themselves, and ordered by customers via Just Eat, who have partnered with Manna in pioneering the use of this technology.
Having received numerous rounds of funding, the company will hold a testing phase from its base in NovaUCD, in preparation for its launch in South Dublin. The trial period in UCD lasts five weeks and will be limited to two drones. ‘’The service will run from Monday to Saturday, offering lunch and dinner from our food partner Camile Thai and ice-cream from Ben & Jerry´s’’ tells Alexandra Slabutu, Drone Operations Project Manager at Manna, to the College Tribune. ”Our drone delivery trial will run for around 4-5 weeks just in front of NovaUCD” explains Alexandra Slabutu. Anyone interested will have to register on Eventrbrite and book lunch or dinner slots in advance. Upon their arrival to the trial area on their booked slot, participants can order a meal via JustEat and get it delivered by a Manna drone.
The testing phase will be facilitated by Manna employees and aided by university students, many from UCD, who will provide feedback and insights into potential improvements. ”We are actively targeting students to participate in our trials and look forward to getting their input and feedback about drone delivery. This will form a key part of our findings and will be instrumental in helping us further develop our business model”, say Alexandra. This follows on from Manna’s association with the UCD College of Science and research led by UCD’s Assoc. Prof. Eleni Mangina.
In a recent press release on the upcoming launch, the company announced its partnership with Just Eat, Camile Thai Kitchen and Ben & Jerry’s for the initial launch phase, with numerous other restaurants in the pipeline thereafter. During an event hosted by ‘tribetacics’ in late 2019, Bobby discussed Manna’s origins and his ambitions for the company. The initial idea was borne out of a late-night craving for a bag of chips. Bobby, ever the entrepreneur, began writing code (dubbed ‘Bag-a-chips’) that would send an autonomous drone to the chipper and return to his house, without actually picking up any food. Recognising the potential, Bobby knew he was on to something. Fast forward to now, and Bobby is already busy trying to enter the US and UK market.
As improbable as it may seem, autonomous food-delivering drones are on their way. Many doubted the feasibility of the project, due to concerns of regulatory barriers, technical issues, political adversity and safety concerns. But, due to their lower costs, quicker delivery times, efficiency over delivery drivers and the impact they’ll have on reducing congestion in cities, Manna has, quite literally, taken off at a rapid pace.
Alex Lohier – Deputy Editor