An Irish drone company is teaming up with the HSE to deliver prescriptions and other essential supplies to vulnerable community members in a rural Irish town.
Manna Aero is trialing the delivery of essential supplies by drone to residents in Moneygall, a rural village in County Offaly.
The company wants to expand to other rural towns in Ireland and Britain if the trials are successful.
Manna Aero drones were initially designed to deliver take out to college students but redirected its efforts in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
The concept is pretty straightforward.
Local GPs host video consultations with their patients before writing up a prescription and emailing it to the local pharmacy. The pharmacy then places the medication in the drone, which carries the prescription to the patient with no human contact.
The drones can also deliver essential food supplies like bread and milk to residents who are cocooning in the Irish village.
It's proving to be a hit with the locals.
Fidelma Gleeson, 70, told the BBC that the concept was "absolutely brilliant."
Gleeson, like the majority of over 70s in Ireland, is self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic and the innovative new drone delivery service allows her to get essential supplies without the risk of contracting the virus.
"I thought I would never see the day that there would be such technology that I wouldn't have to be driving into town and back up to get my medicine," she told the BBC.
Local GP Colm O'Reilly, meanwhile, said that the drone deliveries were a huge assistance to rural residents who don't have access to the same support that they could get in a city.
"In these troubled times, it's great to see how technology is coming together to assist us in helping our patients," he said.
Testing. pic.twitter.com/yiJaHXE7aD— Manna.aero 🍔 🍽 🚁 (@MannaAero) March 22, 2020
The drones can carry around 9lbs of supplies and the company is capable of making 100 drone deliveries per day.
Bobby Healy, Chief Executive of Manna Aero, said that he wanted to bring the trials to the UK as soon as possible and possibly trial the drones with the NHS.
The drones are completely safe, according to Healy, who said that failure is "one in ten million."
If that impossible failure does occur, the drones deploy a parachute for gentle descents.
The drones are completely autonomous, but there is always a human pilot on standby, just in case, according to Healy.
Manna Aero drones are so sturdy that can even fly in the middle of moderate gales, but the company chooses to avoid taking that risk and continue to deliver essential supplies when it is absolutely safe to do so.