Ascendant Irish drone delivery company Manna Aero says it plans on expanding what has been gradually wider and effective services in Ireland to far bigger markets, starting with a move to the US expected later this year, and operation across the European Union in 2023.
Announced this week accompanied by Irish Tánaiste, or head of government, Leo Varadkar, Manna founder and CEO Bobby Healy said extension of drone deliveries to the US and EU would follow continued reinforcement of company activities at home. Those include launching new services in a yet unnamed Dublin suburb of 100,000 residents, and construction of an international manufacturing site for its UAVs to supplement its existing production facility. That sequence reflects the company’s successful base-building growth strategy thus far.
Since its inception in 2018, Manna has hunkered down with the objective of slowly expanding and perfecting drone delivery service in its modestly sized domestic market as requisite for eventually moving to bigger markets in the US and EU. It first began trial operations in the Galway town of Oranmore as it pursued tests of UAV transport elsewhere.
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Most recently Manna rolled out drone service in the Dublin area town of Balbriggan, where it currently makes about 100 daily deliveries to its 35,000 residents. During his announcement, Healy said he intends to increase that rate to about 200 daily flights by the end of this year, and has added 50 people to the staff of 103 to achieve that.
All told, Manna has made about 100,00 deliveries in Balbriggan, with the planned launch in the larger Dublin suburb of 100,000 people likely to augment that rotation of drones flying retail goods, food, and medicines to customers dramatically.
“Manna is a great example of an indigenous Irish company at the cutting edge of a high-potential growth industry,” Varadkar said during the announcement. “This year Manna has created 50 new jobs in Balbriggan, and I know they have ambitious expansion plans for the future.”
Healy said those plans would involve a move into the US expected later this year, and in the EU in 2023, following continued reinforcement of the company’s model in Ireland.
“Rolling out Manna’s service domestically and internationally has always been part of our strategy (and) we are delighted that this is going to be achieved,” Healy said. “Expanding into the US and across Europe in 2022-23, while also providing another large Dublin suburb with drone delivery, and the addition of another manufacturing site shows our rapid growth plans and dedication to our mission.”
The order of its international expansion is a little surprising, however. Last year Manna received authorization from the EU’s aviation regulator to operate drone delivery services in the bloc – meaning certification-ready to take to the European skies right now.
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Despite that, Healy is eyeing the US first, where most UAV transport companies initially rely on Federal Aviation Administration waivers to start operation. As a non-US business, however, Manna doesn’t appear to qualify for obtaining such a waiver, meaning it will probably have to complete the FAA’s long and taxing Part 135 certification process before its drones can make a first delivery there.
But given how fast and far Manna has come since 2018, it’s a fair bet Healy has an idea for pulling off more Irish magic once he’s crossed the Atlantic.