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Tesco to trial home delivery service by drone (plus a COVID-19 update)


Tescos, in Ireland, is due to launch an innovation in modern technology and revolutionise consumer shopping. Operating initially in the Oranmore Tesco store, County Galway, the new ‘Drone Delivery Shopping Service’ will include drones delivering goods to the local community.

Tesco’s new ‘Drone Delivery Service’ (Artists impression)

Is Tesco’s new Drone Service Manna from heaven?

The drones, run by Manna, one of the world’s first B2B drone delivery companies, use custom-developed aerospace-grade drones to provide a delivery service that they originally developed for restaurants and the food supply industry.

For Tesco’s, the drones will be flying at 50mph (80km/h) and can deliver up to 4kg (9lb) of shopping a mile away in three minutes. The Tesco goods are held in a cargo bay that is then lowered from the drone on arrival at its destination. Tesco hopes to provide a service whereby the customer can receive deliver small orders within 30 minutes of ordering.

COVID-19 and the use of drones

Manna had originally planned a takeaway food delivery trial in March but changed its focus to medicines during the coronavirus pandemic, a very fitting decision on their part. It now delivers prescriptions and other essential supplies in the town of Moneygall, Ireland.

A COVID-19 transport brief by the International Transport Forum (www.itf-oecd.org) outlines the use of drones as being especially effective during the coronavirus pandemic. It suggests that a contact-free method of delivering medicines needs to be further explored and exploited. It looks at how air space regulations, whilst still in the infancy, need to be updated to facilitate the increased use of drones in business, especially relevant in this era of hygiene, Coronavirus and future highly contagious pandemics.

In April 2020, the UK government announced much larger unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would deliver essential hospital supplies from the mainland to the Isle of Wight.

Back in 2016 Amazon pioneered drone delivery (So what happened?)

Staying true to their reputation of leading the way, in 2016, retail phenomenon Amazon made its first commercial drone delivery in the UK. This being the first of its kind. The delivery took place from its fulfilment centre in Cambridge to a local resident, the delivery arrived within 13 minutes of the order being placed (no need to wait for the postman!).

The Cambridge fulfilment centre is the hub of the drones, which, once the ordered package is on board, travel along an automated track to the launch area. The drones then take off and fly independently to their destination, guided by GPS. The drones can manage a weight capacity of 2.7kg (5lbs) per parcel.

Despite this promising start, Amazon (as of September 2020) does not yet provide an Amazon Prime Air drone service. Good news for them is that back in August 2020 CNN announced that Amazon had finally received approval from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bringing them a step closer to launching a service in the United States.

Does Amazon have CAA Approval in the UK?

The good news for Drones as a service or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services is that in May 2019 the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that it was launching a newly formed innovation team to create a virtual testing space, known as an “Innovation Sandbox,” where companies would have the chance to trial, test emerging concepts and conduct trials under real-world conditions. ” Amazon is listed as one of the collaborators.

Get your drone delivered by drone!

If you’re located in County Galway when the Tesco drone trial commences, you could get a Drone delivered by a Drone. Tesco sells the SilverLit Stunt Drone which could be the first on your list for the deliveries. Alternatively, you could get a more general household item.

Are Drones the future or too noisy?

Consumers are becoming more aware that retail outlets and supply chains will soon be offering drone delivery services. It will certainly eliminate the need to go to the high street, pay for parking, deal with large crowds (especially with COVID-19 still around). When you can place an order online and have it delivered to your door via drone, within hours.

Although it is a great innovation in delivery service, last year, an Institution of Mechanical Engineers report indicated that only 23% of UK adults supported the idea of drone deliveries, concerns stemming from safety and noise levels.

With the onset of COVID-19 and peoples anxiety about going out and mixing with the general public, this could be yet another technology that gets a boost from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Demographic wise, Younger people are the most in favour of having drones deliver their online orders. The poll found a hefty 45% of 18-24-year olds felt at ease about the idea compared with 18% of people aged 65-74, who mentioned worries about an invasion of privacy and accidents in the sky.

View the full ‘2019 PUBLIC PERCEPTION REPORT’ on Drones here

So as to whether we will accept these unmanned drones buzzing around our skies remains to be seen.

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