In March, residents in Oranmore, Galway, Ireland, started buying the latest Samsung devices, including the Galaxy S21 Ultra phone. For some, the enthusiasm of a new phone was only part of the joy; the delivery of that phone added a new layer of excitement to the purchase.

The devices were delivered by drone.

Working in conjunction with drone-as-a-service company Manna, Samsung is testing drone delivery in the Irish countryside. But phones are not the only thing residents of Oranmore are ordering. Dublin, Ireland-based Manna has been working with other brands such as food delivery firm Just Eat, famed ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s and grocery chain Tesco to make deliveries throughout Galway.

Bobby Healy, founder and CEO of Manna, told Modern Shipper that some of the orders have been unusual. There was an order for a single head of broccoli, an order for a large melon with nappy cream placed at 9 p.m. at night, and a husband sitting outside the hospital waiting for his wife to give birth who ordered a coffee and croissant for delivery to his vehicle. Some people, Healy said, will simply place an order to see drone delivery in action.

Don’t miss Manna’s Bobby Healy during the DroneWaves Summit. Watch for free on Friday, April 30.
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On Thursday, Manna announced a $25 million Series A round of funding led by Draper Esprit, with participation from Team Eurpope, DST Global and existing investors Dynamo Ventures, Atlantic Bridge and Elkstone.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers across the world to reassess how they source their goods and opened our eyes to the fragility of our supply chains. There is a huge appetite for a greener, quieter, safer and faster delivery service, and we’re excited to use this fresh round of funding to expand operations and offer our service to even more customers,” said Healy in a press release. “We are already working with our partners to deliver grocery products, takeaways and pharmaceutical supplies, and as we continue to scale our fleet of drones, we will also begin supporting critical medical deliveries.”

Healy will be a featured speaker during Modern Shipper’s DroneWaves Summit on Friday. Healy will join Kevin Hill, executive publisher of Modern Shipper and FreightWaves, to discuss drone delivery and Manna.

“We are committed to supporting companies that have the potential to change how we live and Manna is a true example of this,” said Nicola McClafferty, a partner at Draper Esprit. “Drones will play a key role in building a long-term and sustainable delivery infrastructure for communities around the world and Manna is already making that a reality. We are thrilled and privileged to be supporting Bobby and the Manna team as they create the future of food delivery.”

Watch: Manna makes a nighttime delivery

Ahead of his DroneWaves appearance, Healy told Modern Shipper the new funding will include scaling the management team, but the bulk of the funds will be diverted into research and development and preparation for scale. Manna is preparing another test project in an undisclosed European city of approximately 40,000 residents.

“I think drone delivery potential is stratospheric – a multitrillion-dollar industry at its nascence,” Healy said. “Europe leads the USA in terms of regulatory readiness for scale and that’s why we’ve attracted so much European capital. We will be commercially scaling beginning in 2023.  At the same time, there’s a slow but sure awakening in the USA that this is coming – and coming reasonably soon – and that awareness has driven much of the [investor] interest in Manna from the U.S. We’ve hired Andrew Patton (formerly of Wing) to head our USA team and this is as clear a statement as you can imagine about our intent there.”

Manna is offering drone delivery within 3 minutes in Galway using aerospace-grade drones that it developed. The drones fly at approximately 262 feet at a speed of 49 miles per hour. Its current test in Galway is handling over 100 deliveries per day, the company said. Healy noted that this is accomplished with just two drones, each of which is capable of making six or seven deliveries per hour.

When the drone arrives at its destination, it hovers for a second before lowering the item via a tether to the ground. Healy said that a company survey found 98.5% of Galway residents said they would be willing to use and pay for drone delivery.

“To date – just 60 days of operation later – 30% of the population has already used the service, with 70% of the orders from repeat customers,” Healy said. “The businesses we deal with (aside from Samsung and Tesco) are all local businesses and they are absolutely delighted – particularly in light of COVID – to be seeing all this additional business. The local bookstore, for example, now has a better delivery product to Galway customers that Amazon has.”

Lukasz Gadowski, co-founder of Team Europe and Delivery Hero, said, “With real customers and real deliveries already in place today, Manna has demonstrated the perfect model for drone delivery of takeout food, and I’m super excited to see them expand and scale. The future is being rewritten and Manna are the clear leaders in this nascent space.” 

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Brian Straight.

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