Royal Mail to trial autonomous drone parcel deliveries

Royal Mail has announced that it will trial the first autonomous scheduled drone flights between the UK mainland and an island this week.

The trial will see the parcel delivery company use uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) flights to deliver PPE, covid-19 testing kits, and other mail to the Isles of Scilly.

Royal Mail will trial the technology as part of a specialist consortium, led by DronePrep, Skyports, Consortiq Limited, Excalibur Healthcare Services, University of Southampton and Windracers Limited.

The project has been funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

A large, twin-engine, UK-built UAV – from Windracers – will carry mail from the mainland to the islands, and is able to fly in poor weather conditions, including fog, potentially enabling Royal Mail to better serve remote island communities.

A smaller Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTO) drone, operated by Skyports, will then fly parcels between the islands for delivery to recipients.
If the trial is successful, Royal Mail will consider expanding the technology across its network.

The company said that the drones will potentially provide opportunities to better support its staff in delivering to remote areas and addresses in the UK.

“Two more major UK firsts is hugely significant for us, and we are incredibly proud to find ways to support the more remote and isolated communities we serve,” said Nick Landon, chief commercial officer, Royal Mail. “This is part of our constant drive to incorporate the best and most innovative technologies into our network.

Landon added: “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.”

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