Royal Mail tests UAV deliveries to Scillies

Royal Mail has begun trialling a mail and parcel fixed wing autonomous drone on the 70 mile route between the UK mainland and the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall.

Flights will fly from Cornwall to St Marys. The postal operator is also trialling an inter-island vertical take off and landing (VTOL) system for flights between the islands in the Scillies.

The project is funded by the government and has a number of partners including Excalibur Health Services and drone makers Windracers. The drone itself is a twin-engine Windracer UAV that has a payload of up to 100kg. It is initially to fly PPE to the Scillies but can take mail of most shapes and sizes, allowing more urgent mail to be delivered to the islands.

Unlike helicopters and ships the UAVs can fly in bad weather and are not seas or tides dependent so can provide a more consistent service than current means.

Gareth Whatmore, CEO at DronePrep, noted, “This project has given us the opportunity to understand how multiple drone delivery platforms can be utilized to overcome and solve real-world logistical challenges. With the introduction of drones to complement existing supply chains we have a huge opportunity to improve the island connection.”

Should the trial be successful Royal Mail will look at rolling the system out to remote communities across the UK. In December it used a parcel drone to deliver a parcel to the Isle of Mull off Scotland, and is consulting residents about drones’ use for delivering parcels to the island.

Nick Landon, chief commercial officer at Royal Mail, concluded, “Two more major UK firsts is hugely significant for us, and we are incredibly proud to find ways to support the more remote and isolated communities we serve. This is part of our constant drive to incorporate the best and most innovative technologies into our network. We’ve seen a huge increase in parcel volumes since the start of the pandemic, and this is just one of the ways we are looking to support our postmen and postwomen in delivering fast and convenient services for all of our customers while reducing our carbon emissions.”
 

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