The future of drone delivery may already be happening in Oranmore.
Fancy a coffee? No problem. Once it's brewed, the coffee shop delivers it by drone. Just look up and you can watch your capuccino slowly descend 80 feet onto your driveway, lowered at the end of a string. The drone, about the size of a go-cart, then closes its cargo doors and whizzes back to base.
Coffee delivery by drone has become a common sight in Oranmore, a town of 8,000 on Ireland's west coast and the unlikely spot that has become one of the only places in the world where drone food deliveries happen regularly.
The town, with its one street of pubs and restaurants, was chosen as the site for a trial program by the Irish startup company Manna. The company is offering local eateries and a supermarket to use two drones to reach their customers.
The trial puts Manna among a handful of companies doing regular deliveries just as the market for mass commercial drone delivery looks increasingly close to finally taking off. Regulations are gradually falling into place in Europe and the United States and some experts believe drone delivery could start to become mainstream within the next few years.
That potential has helped Manna attract $25 million in investment, reflecting the growing excitement around the industry that's value by some estimates could grow by billions of dollars by 2030, reports ABC News.
There are an expanding number of drone delivery trial schemes around the world, some accelerated by the pandemic as deliveries boomed during lockdowns. Alphabet's drone subsidiary Wing is running trials in Virginia, Finland and Australia. UPS has delivered medical supplies during the pandemic and Walmart is partnering with several start ups to trial deliveries. Amazon is also experimenting at several test sites.
Manna's drone launch pads in Oranmore are on the roof of the local Tesco supermarket, that sits conveniently by a main street of takeout restaurants. A half dozen Manna technicians run the trial, loading deliveries - that can weigh up to 2 kilograms - into a white paper bag, which is placed into a removable cargo bay inserted into the drone. Set to fly at 50 mph, the drones cruise at 260 feet to reach their destination and can reach anywhere in the town within two minutes. Once over a delivery house, the drone lowers to 80 feet before a hatch on its belly opens and the bag gently spirals to earth at the end of a thin rope.
The company said it was normally doing between 30 and 100 deliveries a-day and it has reached around 30 percent of the town's households since it started in December. The current delivery charge being trialed in around 4 euros (about $5).
Manna's CEO Bobby Healy said the company plans to expand to cover 150,000 customers in the next 18 months before launching commercially in two European countries in 2023.