Cold, dreary weather is always a threat to derail Halloween festivities, as was the case in Dallas-Fort Worth this year. But for trick-or-treaters in one of the area’s neighborhoods, drones came to the rescue.
“We are taking Halloween to new heights with a fun new way for kids to trick or treat—especially when the weather isn’t very Halloween compatible,” said Andrew Patton, the head of Ireland-based Manna Drone Delivery’s U.S. business.
On Tuesday, Manna drones flew chocolate, candies, and other sweet treats straight to the doorsteps of clamoring children (and adults) in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Northlake. The Halloween-themed deliveries marked the company’s official U.S. launch, first teased in March.
But Manna, which is backed by Coca-Cola HBC and operates one of Europe’s largest drone delivery services, will deliver more than just Kit Kats and Sour Patch Kids.
“After over four years of operations and over 150,000 flights logged in Europe, we are excited to be touching down in the United States to offer the residents of Dallas-Fort Worth a lightning-quick and sustainable home delivery service,” said Patton.
Patton brings some traditional aviation expertise to the table—the Manna executive holds a commercial pilot’s license with 1,900 hours of flight time and multiple jet type ratings. He flies a Yakovlev Yak-50 aerobatic airplane whenever time permits.
Moving forward, residents of Northlake’s Pecan Square community will be able to order drinks and food (including more chocolate and candy) from local retailers Farmhouse Coffee & Treasures and The Touring Chocolatier, as well as from a few “notable national brands.”
The service will run on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, delivering items in less than three minutes on average, Manna said. Patton told FLYING the company plans to deliver to the yards of all 1,600 households in Pecan Square, rolling out service with a “staggered” approach.
According to the company’s website, when an order is placed through its app, Manna drones take off from a delivery hub, flying at 60 mph (52 knots) at a height of around 200 feet. When they arrive above the customer’s yard, the drones descend to about 100 feet, lowering packages gently to the ground using a tether. That allows it to deliver delicate items such as eggs.
Manna claims that when its drones are soaring at their cruising altitude, they’re perceived as silent by people on the ground. And when descending to complete a delivery, the company describes the aircraft’s buzzing as inaudible to customers indoors.
To kick off its U.S. launch, Manna also partnered with the local Tarrant Area Food Bank, which provides close to a million meals per week to North Texans. The company will make a donation for every flight it conducts this year.
The Start of Something Bigger?
While Pecan Square is Manna’s first and only U.S. drone delivery service area, it’s unlikely to be the last.
Pecan Square was developed by Hillwood Communities and is located near the company’s AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ). The MIZ aims to test and scale drone delivery and unmanned aircraft technologies in a real-world environment.
Manna’s Dallas-Fort Worth launch came a few months after it and Hillwood announced the beginning of trials at the MIZ, with the ultimate goal of offering drone delivery to “a select number of Hillwood’s residential developments.”
The implication is that Pecan Square is only the first site. Per that announcement, Manna plans to eventually offer its service to more than 10,000 local residents.
“Hillwood is the premier developer of best-in-class residential communities in Texas,” Patton told FLYING. “Hillwood’s legacy of technology-forward communities and its investment in next-generation autonomous transportation technology through the AllianceTexas MIZ make it an extremely well-suited partner for Manna as we move into the U.S.”
Another major drone delivery player, Alphabet’s Wing, tested its service at the MIZ’s Flight Test Center in 2021. A year later, it launched a delivery hub at Hillwood’s Frisco Station mixed-use development in partnership with Walgreens. Bell Textron has also demonstrated drone package delivery at the AllianceTexas site.
“Drone deliveries are here to stay, and we’re leaning into this efficient and innovative delivery option,” Chris Ash, senior vice president of aviation business development at Hillwood and the leader of MIZ, told FLYING. “We will continue to build great relationships with more companies to further develop and commercialize this technology that reduces roadway congestion and emissions.”
In August, Wing expanded its Dallas-Fort Worth operations to a Walmart Supercenter in Frisco, which FLYING received an inside look at last month. Israel’s Flytrex has offered drone delivery in the DFW suburb of Granbury since 2022. And elsewhere in the state, Amazon Prime Air last year landed in College Station, adding prescription drone delivery to that service in October.
Manna, meanwhile, has primarily focused on growing domestic operations. Its largest markets are the Dublin suburb of Balbriggan and a few other locations in Ireland—per an interview with Forbes, it has completed thousands of flights per day in multiple Irish markets. According to CEO Bobby Healy, those services are one-tenth the cost of a human driver in a car.
Healy told Forbes the company’s philosophy is to target highly populated U.S. markets, drawing from its experience flying over urban densities of 10,000 people per square mile. Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S., appears to fit that bill. At the same time, Manna is eyeing an expansion into mainland Europe.