Tesco is to start trialling home deliveries by drone, dispatching smaller grocery items to customers within 30 minutes of ordering.
The supermarket has partnered with the drone delivery company Manna, and will begin six months of testing at a store in Oranmore, County Galway, where the start-up has a license to operate.
Tesco is currently the UK and Ireland’s biggest retailer and the move marks another significant step in ecommerce delivery.
Manna has offices in Ireland and Wales and uses customised drones to send out everything from restaurant meals to medicine.
Flying at 50mph (80km/h), they can deliver up to 4kg (9lb) of shopping - in a cargo cassette lowered from the drone - a mile away in three minutes.
Manna had planned a takeaway food delivery trial in March but changed its focus to medicines during the coronavirus pandemic.
It now delivers prescriptions and other essential supplies in the town of Moneygall.
The delightful Fidelma discusses what drone delivery means to her. pic.twitter.com/nDlMb4BNM9
— 🚁 Manna Drone Delivery 🚁 (@MannaAero) May 14, 2020
Dave Lewis, the chief executive of Tesco, said: “They [Manna] have already proven the capability, the question is how do we take that capability and apply it to Tesco and that’s the detail that’s been worked on now before we get to the trial.”
Claire Lorains, group innovation director at Tesco, said: “We are interested to see how drones could be part of the solution to deliver to our customers on-demand small baskets. If our trial with Manna is successful, we believe there is an opportunity to reach many customers through our stores, extending via our drone service.”
The move by Tesco will come as direct competition to Amazon, which has been using drones to deliver goods for some time.
The online retailer began its own trials several years ago, mainly testing its services in Cambridge. Its first successful courier by drone happened in December 2016, when a TV streaming stick and a bag of popcorn was shipped directly to a nearby customer’s garden.
Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer which owns the UK supermarket chain Asda, also said on Wednesday it would run a project to deliver grocery and household products via the drone delivery firm Flytrex, which is based in the US and Iceland.