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Royal Mail completes first autonomous drone parcel deliveries to the Scilly Isles   

Royal Mail, in partnership with DronePrep, Skyports, University of Southampton, Excalibur Healthcare Services, Consortiq Limited and Windracers Limited, a consortium funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has become the first UK parcel carrier to deliver mail to a UK island via drone.

The first is part of a month-long project which is seeing two unmanned aerial vehicles used to deliver mail to and around the islands, with a particular focus on delivering critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and COVID testing kits, as well as ecommerce orders from retailers.

The Company is trialling scheduled, autonomous flights for one month between the Cornish mainland and the Isles of Scilly, a 70-mile flight, to help better connect remote island communities. If successful, Royal Mail will consider expanding the technology across its network, potentially providing opportunities to better support postmen and postwomen in delivering to remote areas and addresses in the UK.

Parcels will be flown to the islands’ airport in St. Mary’s, by a UK-built twin-engine Windracers UAV, which can carry up to 100kg worth of mail at a time – equivalent to a typical delivery round. A smaller vertical take-off drone, operated by Skyports, will then be used to transport items to delivery points throughout the islands.

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 coming months, a consultation will be undertaken with residents on the use of drones to deliver to rural communities on the island.

Minister for Business Paul Scully said: “The UK is at the forefront of the aviation revolution, developing newer and more fuel-efficient technologies. Royal Mail’s ‘air bridge’ to the Isles of Scilly will not only connect isolated and rural communities, but showcases the real-world potential drones have to truly transform our lives. Backed by government funding, it is initiatives like these which will help us beat COVID-19 and build back better from the pandemic.”

Image credits:
  • Royal Mail