19th May 2022

Collaborating with Manna drones in Balbriggan

This Wednesday marked our final workshop of the 2021/2022 academic year here at Academy of the Near Future. Transition Year and First Year students in Balbriggan Community College took part in an extra special smart cities event in collaboration with Manna Drone Delivery.

What was the workshop?

As one of Smart Dublin’s newest districts, our workshop this week in Balbriggan offered students the opportunity to engage with the new technologies developing within their local community. At the forefront of the town’s tech innovation is Manna, an Irish start-up that offers a drone delivery service to residents in Balbriggan town in under 3 minutes!

With ‘MNA1200’ - a now retired drone - by their side, Naoimi and Aaron from Manna kicked off with a fantastic presentation and Q&A session with the students. They discussed the production time of each drone, their test site facility down in Oranmore, Co. Offaly, and the career opportunities in smart tech development and innovation for young people, akin to the students in Balbriggan CC. Of particular interest among students was the specific use of LiDAR sensor technology used within Manna’s drones and the role such sensors play in facilitating safe, efficient, and reliable deliveries throughout Balbriggan - be it coffee, books, or a carton of milk!

Following Naomi and Aaron’s presentation, the students were offered the chance to see the sensor technology employed in one of Manna’s drones in action. Much to their excitement, a live demonstration was held where a Manna drone delivered gift vouchers for the students of Balbriggan CC (quite literally one for everyone in the audience!), while using the school’s sports field as a drop zone.

Following the excitement of the drone delivery, Academy of the Near Future followed up with a hands-on workshop. Through ideation, creative thinking and collaborative group work, the students were encouraged to design innovative tech solutions to the challenges they deem to be of most importance in their local area. For example, students identified the adverse health impacts of pollution as a key issue facing Balbriggan and designed a hand-held device that could easily and efficiently monitor the local community’s exposure to environmental harms.

What did we learn?

Underpinning all of our school workshops here at the Academy of the Near Future is the goal of encouraging young people to think critically about the challenges facing their local areas. More fundamentally, however, is the desire to demonstrate the ability of young people to imagine and design empathetic, inclusive, and innovative tech solutions that will bring tangible benefits to their communities and beyond - a capacity for youth ingenuity that was truly showcased by the students of Balbriggan CC.


Interested in our team delivering a Smart Cities workshop for Transition Years at your school? Get in touch at or via the contact form on our website.