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This article was published on August 1, 2023

UK’s first drone delivery service launches in remote Scottish islands

Royal Mail plans to roll out more than 50 drone delivery routes across the UK over the next three years


UK’s first drone delivery service launches in remote Scottish islands

Remote communities off the Scottish coast are now the first people in the UK to have their mail delivered by drone. 

Royal Mail and London-based Skyports Drone Services launched the project to make it easier for residents of Orkney, located off the north coast of Scotland, to receive their mail without delays. 

The drones will carry mail from Stromness to the remote islands of Graemsay and Hoy where postal staff will complete their usual delivery routes. 

While the service will initially operate for three months, the partners intend to continue it on a permanent basis. This is possible under existing regulatory frameworks due to Orkney’s unique landscape and the proximity of the islands to one another.

The drone service is expected to significantly improve service levels and delivery times to Graemsay and Hoy, as weather and geography can cause disruption to current deliveries which are made by ferry or small planes. 

“Rural and maritime logistics are contingent on access, weather, and personnel — if one of these factors is compromised, so too is the ability to provide a safe and reliable service,” explained Alex Brown, Director at Skyports Drone Services. “Orkney is just one example of a hard-to-reach location that will benefit significantly from regular recurring drone operations.”

Skyports will conduct the inter-island flights with an all-electric Speedbird Aero DLV-2 aircraft. The multirotor drone is capable of carrying payloads of up to 6kg and has a range of 8km. 

“Using a fully electric drone on a permanent basis supports Royal Mail’s continued drive to reduce emissions associated with our operations, whilst connecting the island communities we deliver to,” said Chris Paxton, head of drone trials at Royal Mail.

The project is funded by the Department for Transport’s Freight Innovation Fund and executed by the Connected Places Catapult. The fund focuses on accelerating the adoption of commercial solutions to make the UK’s freight sector greener and more efficient.

Plans for a Royal Mail drone delivery service were first detailed last year. The firm is aiming to secure more than 50 drone routes supported by up to 200 drones over the next three years. Longer term, the ambition is to deploy a fleet of more than 500 drones servicing all corners of the UK.

In other parts of the world, delivery companies have also been trialling post by air, most notably Amazon in parts of the US and SingPost in Singapore.

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