Wednesday 26 April 2017

Pony Express Couriers make 'Ireland’s first drone delivery' in two minute trip

Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Pony Express Couriers have made what is being claimed as Ireland’s first drone delivery.

The delivery took place on Saturday evening in Dun Laoghaire.

The Irish courier firm flew a DJI Inspire 1 drone 200 metres from the shore to a boat moored in the harbour. The package it delivered was a 250-gram box of medical supplies, taking took two minutes to complete.

The company obtained clearance from the Irish Aviation Authority to make the delivery, but executives say that it may be a while before widespread commercial drone delivery services are available in Ireland.

“The delivery of low value, urgent items such as takeaway food, especially to remote rural areas is highly likely,” said Audrey Browne, operations manager of Pony Express. “But important city deliveries such as the majority of our same-day express services could not be trusted to drones yet as the possibility of interception, loss or damage would be too great. When parcel delivery by drone can be proven to work safely in an urban context, then we will reevaluate the situation, but for now we will continue offering delivery by the traditional methods of bicycles, motorbikes, vans and trucks.”

In practice, drone deliveries look to be some way off, not least because of the regulatory hurdles to be overcome. To complete a two-minute parcel delivery flight, Pony Express Couriers had to apply for permission from the IAA weeks in advance. It also had to inform Dublin Airport of its plans because of restricted airspace rules around Dublin.

A spokeswoman said that the company would have to repeat the exhaustive measures for each individual delivery flight.

“The IAA were exceptionally good to us,” said Paula Moore, an executive with Pony Express Couriers.

“But you need very exact permission and there are lots of forms and other things to be done. So we aren’t planning on offering the service just yet. Nevertheless, we want to be at the front of innovation in the sector. And we wanted the first drone delivery flight to be completed by an Irish firm rather than a multinational delivery firm.”

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