Manna Aero, a drone delivery startup, founded by Bob Healy in 2017, joined hands with the Health Service Executive, to deliver medicines and essential items to homes in rural Ireland. The autonomous medical delivery drones are dropping supplies in a rural town called Moneygall. The company had launched its food drone delivery service in February 2020 after 3 years of testing. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it had to temporarily stop its operations. These drones will not only deliver medicines but also ration from door to door.

Bob Healy
Bob Healy with Manna Aero’s delivery drone
Image source: BBC

First of its kind

Several drone delivery services have successfully begun operations. For instance, Wingcopter drone delivery, Zipline drones in Rwanda, Amazon Air, etc. Most of these services operate on a fixed path. However, Manna Aero’s autonomous drones deliver supplies directly to the consumer at their doorstep. The company stated that such a form of ‘end-to-end’ delivery system is a first.

The way this works is that a patient first gets a video consultation from a local physician. Then the prescription medicines are loaded into a drone that is later dropped off at the patient’s residential address. The drones used by the company are made in Wales. The drones can withstand moderate winds and fly at an altitude of 80 meters. These UAVs can also cruise at a speed of over 80kph. Also, these drones can carry a maximum payload of up to 4kg in the form of a cargo cassette. Unlike the city, rural towns in Ireland often do not have the same amount of support and infrastructure. Thus, medical delivery drones like these can become the mainstream means of logistics in such areas.

Medical drone delivery Manna Aero Ireland
The medical delivery drones are loaded with the deploy-able cargo cassettes.

“In these troubled times, it’s great to see how technology is coming together to assist us in helping our patients,” Dr. Colm O’Reilly, a general physician in Toomevara stated.

Manna Aero’s chief, Bob Healy, is planning to bring the medical drone delivery to the UK. He expressed his intent to work alongside the NHS (National Health Service) to deliver supplies in the Isle of Wight. This drone trial is being planned for the upcoming weeks.

A safe medical drone delivery system

Bob Healy explains that this is the need of the hour due to the worsening global pandemic. Manna Aero is equipped to handle about 100 autonomous drone deliveries per day. Despite being fully autonomous, the company states that there is always a pilot available at hand to monitor and intervene in flights. Additionally, Manna’s drones are fitted with a parachute for an emergency scenario which is quite rare.

Healy hopes that the drone trials in Moneygall will help validate the efficiency and effectiveness of this system. Thus, it can later be applied to the 500 rural towns in Ireland that are approximately the same size.

“It’s about proving that if there’s a world in future where you need to do a lockdown, at scale, that drones can be a massive solution,” Mr. Healy said.

Medical drone delivery
Image source: BBC