DUBLIN: January 30, 2017. Pony Express has made the first courier delivery by drone in a two-minute test flight from the suburban Dublin port of Dún Laoghaire to a vessel 200 meters away.
The drone carried a half-pound (250 grams) waterproof container of medical supplies including an emergency thermal blanket and Epi-pen plus a high-energy bar and water.
According to the company it is the first time a drone has been approved by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to deliver a shipment.
When asked whether drones would work in the courier industry, 51 percent of Pony Express customers it surveyed said yes. However, when asked if drones could safely deliver parcels, only 28 percent said yes while 25 percent said no.
Company operations manager Audrey Browne explained it was unlikely Ireland would see a drone delivery service in the near future: "The delivery of low value, urgent items such as takeaway food, especially to remote rural areas is highly likely, but important city deliveries such as the majority of our same-day express services could not be trusted to drones yet.
Browne explained it was because 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."
Ralph James, IAA's director of safety regulation noted: "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."
Launched in 1977, Pony Express now operates over 250 motorcycle couriers in the greater Dublin area.