In Oranmore, a small town in County Galway, Ireland, you can now get a taste of a possible, instantly-gratifying drone delivery future. In a newly announced partnership with Irish drone delivery company Manna, Samsung is promising delivery of its smaller electronics like phones and smart watches “within three minutes” when ordered by someone in Oranmore from Samsung’s Irish online store.

Manna uses “custom-developed aerospace drones” to complete deliveries, according to Samsung’s announcement. The drones’ ability to travel at speeds over 60 kilometers per hour (around 37 miles per hour) seems to be what guarantees those aggressive delivery times, though only operating within a two-kilometer radius from their dispatch center probably helps too.

Samsung and Manna aren’t exactly breaking new ground with their partnership, however. People living in Oranmore may already be familiar with Manna’s drones delivering everything from groceries to medicine thanks to a deal Manna secured with grocery chain Tesco in 2020.

A Samsung phone getting packaged for shipping with a Manna drone.
Image: Samsung

Both Samsung and Manna say they’re “keen” to expand the delivery service nationwide, but outside of Ireland other companies have been experimenting with drones as well. Amazon began testing its drones in the United Kingdom after receiving regulatory approval in 2016. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also started giving out approval for other small scale tests, like a UPS and CVS partnership to deliver prescriptions to a retirement home in Florida, and a Walmart-run test in North Carolina.

All of these tests seem to be in service of what’s starting to feel like an inevitable reality: next-day shipping becoming more like next-minute shipping. Regulators need to agree on standards for drone flights to make that happen, and in the case of the FAA, freedom to fly will require new identification systems to determine ownership. It can all seem like a long way off given the pace of government, but like this Samsung stunt, there are more and more examples where that possible future is bleeding into the present.

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