Ireland’s first Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) approved parcel delivery by drone was completed this weekend, in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. The flight was performed by Pony Express Couriers, Ireland’s largest same-day courier. The flight took two minutes to complete from take-off to parcel drop, with the drone (a DJI Inspire 1) taking the parcel, weighing 250 grams, from the shoreline to a boat at sea almost 200 metres away.

The parcel contained medical supplies: an emergency thermal blanket, an Epi-pen, bandages, plasters, thermometer, first aid leaflet, gloves, wipes and burn dressings. It also contained food and a drink in the form of a high-energy bar and water. The supplies were attached to the underside of the drone in a waterproof container.

Though Pony Express Couriers, who were the first courier company in Ireland, are not planning on offering a drone parcel delivery service in Dublin or Ireland any time soon, they are keen to be at the leading edge of all new developments in their section. “We were delighted to be involved in Ireland’s first drone parcel delivery and we’re proud that we, as an Irish company, are trialling the technology.” said Audrey Browne, Operations Manager of Pony Express.

Does this mean drones will soon be buzzing around the cities and countryside of Ireland? “The delivery of low value, urgent items such as takeaway food, especially to remote rural areas is highly likely,” said Audrey. “But important city deliveries such as the majority of our same-day express services could not be trusted to drones yet, 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 revaluate the situation, but for now we will continue offering parcel delivery by our traditional methods of bicycles, motorbike, vans and trucks.”

This flight is the first parcel delivery drop by drone that the Irish Aviation Authority have sanctioned in Ireland. “We’re delighted with the success of the first official parcel delivery in Ireland via drone under controlled conditions which met all regulatory requirements. The application of drone technology is vast and the IAA will continue to foster, promote and encourage its use with the emphasis as always on safety.” said Ralph James, the IAA’s Director of Safety Regulation.

When asked in a survey ‘Do You Think Drones Would Work in The Courier Industry?’ 51% of Pony Express Courier’s clients said ‘Yes’, with a further 12% saying ‘Maybe’, basing their response on their lack of knowledge on the technical abilities of drones. Overall there was a very positive response from those surveyed but safety was the biggest concern of clients. When asked ‘Could Drones Safely Deliver Your Parcels?’, 28% said ‘Yes’ and 25% said ‘No’, with the rest responding ‘Maybe’. Also, a number of clients commented that the friendly face of a courier could not be replaced by a machine.