Royal Mail starts drone delivery service in Scotland

UK’s first drone delivery service was launched in the remote Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, with plans for more routes in the coming years.

An archipelago in Northern Scotland has made history as the first location in the UK to receive mail delivered by a drone. The service will continue daily between three islands in Orkney for the next three months, with plans to extend it afterward.

Orkney I-Port operation is a joint project between Royal Mail and London-based drone company Skyports Drone Services. It will deliver mail in partnership with Orkney harbor authorities and Logonair, a Scottish regional airline.

Letters and parcels will be transported from Royal Mail’s delivery office in Kirkwall, Orkney’s largest town, to Stromness, its second largest settlement, both on the main island.

From there, drones, each capable of carrying payloads of up to six kilograms, will be dispatched to the nearby islands of Graemsay and Hoy, where postal workers will finish their delivery routes.

It is the first regular drone delivery service in the UK, made possible by the “unique” landscape of Orkney and the proximity of the three islands, allowing drone flights to be conducted under the existing regulatory framework, according to the Royal Mail.

Electric Speedbird Aero DLV-2 multirotor drones will be used to make deliveries. The trial is expected to improve service levels, delivery times, and postal staff safety in the region where weather conditions and geography can be challenging.

According to Chris Paxton, head of drone trials at Royal Mail, using fully electric drones also serves the postal service’s “continued drive” to reduce emissions.

“We are proud to be working with Skyports to deliver via drone to some of the more remote communities that we serve in the UK,” Paxton said.

Alex Brown, director of Skyports Drone Services, said the trial should “demonstrate how drone operations can benefit UK logistics.”

“We are revolutionizing mail services in remote communities,” Brown said.

Last year, Royal Mail said it aims to secure more than 50 drone routes that up to 200 drones would service over the next three years. Its longer-term vision includes 500 drones servicing all corners of the UK.

Drone delivery services are trialed elsewhere in the world, most notably by Amazon in parts of the US.

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