By Chris Stonor
Royal Mail is to trial a drone delivery service flying PPE, Covid-19 test kits and other small items of mail from the UK mainland to the Scilly Isles, reports theguardian.com.
Parcels are to be flown to the airport in St Mary’s by an unmanned craft that can carry up to 100kg of mail at a time. This is about the size of a typical delivery round. The items will then be flown by a smaller drone to delivery points around the isles.
Amy Richards, a postwoman on the Isles of Scilly, said, “There are some really remote areas on these islands and this is a terrific way to help us reach them.” She continued, “It’s really important for us to do all we can to help all areas of the country stay connected, especially in these difficult times.” If the trial is a success, Royal Mail said the technology could be used to support postal workers in delivering to remote areas of the UK.
Royal Mail commented it is the first parcel carrier in the country to deliver mail to a UK island using an autonomous flight that flies out of sight of an operator during the 70-mile journey. A smaller drone, which is able to take off and land vertically, will fly parcels between the islands off the coast of Cornwall for delivery to their final recipients.
Royal Mail delivered its first parcel using a drone last December, when it sent a package to a remote lighthouse on Scotland’s Isle of Mull.
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The Scilly Isles month-long trial is being funded by the government and involves a consortium including the University of Southampton and several drone companies.
A large, twin-engine uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV), manufactured in the UK by Windracers , will carry packages from the mainland to the islands’ airport in St Mary’s.
The UAV was designed to deliver supplies to people in remote locations and is able to fly in poor weather conditions including fog. It can carry 100kg of mail of all shapes and sizes, which is equivalent to a typical delivery round.
Royal Mail Chief Commercial Officer, Nick Landon, said: “This is part of our constant drive to incorporate the best and most innovative technologies into our network.” He continued, “We’ve seen a huge increase in parcel volumes since the start of the pandemic, and this is just one of the ways we are looking to support our postmen and postwomen in delivering fast and convenient services for all of our customers while reducing our carbon emissions.”
The government-funded project is developed in partnership with DronePrep, Skyports, Consortiq, the University of Southampton, Excalibur Healthcare Services and Windracers. Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said, “The UK is already a world leader when it comes to innovation in aviation and today’s announcement is an exciting step forward for Royal Mail.”
(News Source: https://www.theguardian.com/uk)