The Irish Aviation Authority says that Manna Aero may not get permission to launch a full food drone delivery service in Dublin.
Manna Aero, founded by Bobby Healy, hopes to scale to 50,000 delivery drones for the Irish and UK markets. It will begin with fast-food deliveries on behalf of Just Eat and Camile Thai in UCD next month, with a target audience of 30,000 students.
But sources in the IAA said that the drone startup's UCD launch was regarded as being part of a "risk assessment process" required under regulatory rules. The sources, who asked not to be named, expressed caution about the regulatory viability of a full commercial launch under current conditions.
Manna Aero responded by saying that its regulatory preparation had been beyond what other drone operators had achieved.
"From a regulatory perspective, Manna has permission to fly its drones in Ireland, based on a specific operating permission granted by the IAA for activities in compliance with our flight operations manual," said a spokesman. "For our UCD trials, we conducted a specific operating risk assessment (Sora) in compliance with the internationally renowned JARUS document, which is recognised by the IAA. This Sora systematically addressed the risks associated with these specific trial flights at this location and specified the control measures required."
Earlier, Mr Healy said relations with the IAA have been positive. "The Irish Aviation Authority have been a tremendous help and guide over the past three years," he said.
"Working together, we have ensured that our drones are extremely safe in all operating conditions."
He said that drone technology would be environmentally advantageous and speed up delivery times.
"Drone delivery provides a faster, cleaner, safer, cheaper and higher-quality alternative to road-based delivery," he said.
"I am extremely proud of the team and what we have built.
"This technology will transform online food marketplaces, restaurants, dark kitchens and communities globally."