Royal Mail and Skyports Drone Services have announced the launch of the Orkney I-Port drone delivery project.
This project has been established in partnership with Orkney Islands Council Harbour Authority and airline, Loganair.
It will operate using fully-electric drones to provide a daily inter-island mail distribution service between three islands on Orkney, Scotland.
Throughout this operation, letters and parcels will be transported from Royal Mail’s Kirkwall delivery office to Stromness. From here, Skyports Drone Services will conduct drone deliveries to Graemsay and Hoy. Postal workers will carry out their usual island delivery routes.
The inter-island flights will be conducted by the Speedbird Aero DLV-2 aircraft, which is capable of carrying payloads of up to 6 kilograms.
The project will initially operate for three months, with the intention of extending it in the future.
“I was glad to attend the drone tests and see their development for myself. Obviously these schemes are still at trial stage and so we should temper our expectations. Even so anything that helps to maintain the universal service, especially in areas of the isles which are more difficult to reach, is something that we should give a chance to support. Royal Mail remains a critical part of keeping the isles connected – and local knowledge and care are vital to that network.”
This is the first UK drone delivery project that can operate on a permanent basis under existing regulatory frameworks.
This is due to Orkney’s unique landscape and the proximity of the islands to one another, allowing for flights to be conducted using extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) permissions rather than beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
Currently, Orkney’s weather and geography can impact Royal Mail’s ability to provide a reliable delivery service due to pauses in the ferry schedule.
The I-Port operation is thus expected to improve service levels for rural communities by significantly shortening delivery times to Graemsay and Hoy.
“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. 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.”
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