By Chris Stonor
It’s all happening in Ireland, at present, when it comes to drone delivery development and the latest news is that the leader of the pack, Manna Aero, has announced a partnership with EireComposites alongside NUI Galway (NUIG), after receiving EUR2.44 million funding from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment under its latest round of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF), reports a press release.
Meanwhile, EireComposites is a design, manufacturing and testing company based in Co. Galway. Its partnership role is to design and develop an aerospace-grade carbon fibre airframe for Manna’s drones. This collaboration is part of the MI-DRONE project which addresses consumer demand for fast, reliable, last-mile delivery using a drone with delivery times being reduced to three minutes.
The release explains, “The project also addresses sustainability with emissions decreasing by 80 percent as a direct result of drones replacing approximately 2,800 cars/vans on Irish roads.”
It goes on, “ÉireComposites role within the venture is to coordinate the project and lead light-weighting of the airframe through the development of structural components from carbon fibre. Working alongside NUIG, ÉireComposites will develop additive manufacturing and automation technologies for high-volume manufacturing of drones, and for structural testing of the same. It is envisioned that this process of manufacturing will lead to a reduction of the cost per drone by 36 percent between 2024 and 2026.”
Tomás Flanagan, ÉireComposites CEO, commented, “We are excited to be playing a leading role in the improvement of drone technology. The goal of this project is to fast forward the evolution of drone delivery and we believe this consortium brings with it the best in terms of leadership, vision and manufacturing to make this a reality and to align Ireland as a world leader in both drone delivery technology and manufacturing.”
In order to effectively scale the business, the production of a large number of aircraft over a short time period is essential. Therefore, a range of advanced manufacturing processes, which includes automated manufacturing, such as automated tape placement, pre-programmed kitting of plies and induction welding, will be developed to allow for high volume production of the drone airframe.
The results of the project will lead to a significant reduction in delivery charges for customers. Beyond Ireland, the consortium believes that the MI-DRONE project can expand globally to serve one billion people with last mile delivery and displace 560,000 cars and vans with drones. The MI-DRONE project will begin immediately with full-scale operational testing to begin at the start of 2023.
Bobby Healy, CEO and Founder of Manna, enthused, “Having such an advanced materials player in Ireland was a fantastic opportunity for us to partner with a world leader for our aircraft given their experience at the cutting edge of aerospace and renewables tech.”
Dr Noel Harrison
Dr Noel Harrison at NUI Galway, added, “MI-Drone is a perfect example of how NUI Galway, through the SFI MaREI and I-Form research centres, can support industry’s desire to innovate and grow via our research expertise and resources in design, simulation, materials, manufacturing and testing”.
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