Royal Mail initiates UK's first postal drone service in Orkney

The drone has six electric rotors and can complete a round trip of 4.9 miles using an air logistics drone from Speedbird, with a payload capacity of 13.2 pounds.
Jijo Malayil
Royal Mail testing its drone service.
Royal Mail testing its drone service.

Royal Mail 

Signaling a new dawn in the delivery industry, Royal Mail has started its first drone drop-off services in the United Kingdom.

The country's first drone services began in Orkney, through a collaborative effort between Royal Mail and Skyports Drone Services. The delivery option will be used to distribute letters and parcels between the islands from its Stromness facility, according to a press release.

Delivery services to the islands of Hoy and Graemsay are often affected by extreme weather conditions, and the drone service is expected to improve service levels and delivery times. 

The service will be carried out on a trial basis for three months. Because of the distinctive geography of Orkney and the proximity of the islands to one another, the service might be sustained permanently within existing legal frameworks after evaluating its feasibility. 

Implementing such an option will also contribute to improving the safety of postal workers who operate in challenging terrains.

Payloads of up to 13.2 pounds

The service conducted by Skyports uses a Speedbird Aero DLV-2 aircraft specifically designed for heavy-lifting air logistics. The drone has six electric rotors and is capable to complete a round trip of 4.9 miles (eight kilometers). The drone is capable of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations as well, enhancing its effectiveness to service distant areas. 

According to Speedbird's website, the drone is built to further air transportation of "heavy payloads, such as industrial items, beverage packs, biological materials, and multiple e-commerce orders." 

The aircraft is already operational, providing services for warehouses, hospitals, laboratories, and courier needs.

A comprehensive plan

Aiming to improve the reliability of mail services to remote communities, Royal Mail announced in May that it plans to deploy approximately 200 drones across 50 new routes, with special emphasis on serving the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, and the Hebrides.

Over the past 18 months, Royal Mail has performed four drone tests, including flights on the Scottish Isle of Mull, the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast, and between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay on the Orkney Islands.

Using such cleaner forms of mobility is also set to assist Royal Mail's efforts to reduce its carbon emissions. "Using a fully electric drone supports Royal Mail's continued drive to reduce emissions associated with our operations, whilst connecting the island communities we deliver to," Chris Paxton, head of drone trials at Royal Mail, said in a statement.

The postal delivery firm aims to expand its fleet to include 500 drone sin the coming years and extend these services across the UK.

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