Royal Mail tests autonomous drone parcel deliveries to remote islands

Royal Mail becomes the first UK parcel carrier to deliver mail to a UK island in a 70 mile out-of-sight, autonomous flight to the Scilly Isles. The courier company has also trialed the first inter-island drone flights with a smaller vertical take-off and landing drone.

The trial will see the Company use Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flights to deliver packages – including personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing kits, and assorted mail – from the UK mainland to the Isles of Scilly (a remote archipelago off the Cornish coast in southwest England). However, other parcels will also be carried, including orders from various retailers.

The larger twin-engine UAV can carry up to 100kg of mail of most shapes and sizes at a time – equivalent to a typical delivery round. A smaller vertical take-off and landing drone, operated by Skyports, will then be used to fly parcels between the islands for delivery to recipients.

According to Royal Mail, the UAVs will complement existing forms of transport for mail to the Isles of Scilly. They are able to fly in poor weather conditions – including fog – as they are uncrewed and not dependent on tides.

The one-month trial of scheduled flights from the mainland to remote communities on the islands is being funded by the government and involves a consortium including the University of Southampton and drone companies Windracers, Skyports, and Consortiq, among others.

In December, Royal Mail became the first nationwide UK parcel carrier to deliver a parcel for recipients via drone to a remote lighthouse on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. In the coming months, it’s planning to consult with residents on the use of drones to deliver mails to rural communities on the island.

If the latest experiment is a success, Royal Mail will consider the technology to help identify opportunities to support postmen and postwomen in delivering to very remote areas and addresses across the UK.

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