When you live on an island, mail delays are just part of the routine. But for the inhabitants of Orkney, these disruptions are becoming a thing of the past as Britain's first drone mail delivery service takes flight.
The service, a venture by Royal Mail, transports mail from the Kirkwall delivery office to the village of Stromness. Here, drones hand off the items to postal workers on the islands of Hoy and Graemsay, maintaining their regular routes. This innovative method sidesteps the former lengthy process where mail arrived at Kirkwall Airport before being dispatched by plane or ferry to Orkney's 19 populated islands.
Often, the challenging terrain and unpredictable weather conditions would cause interruptions in mail delivery. However, the introduction of drones is a significant step in overcoming these obstacles.
As Chris Paxton, head of drone trials at Royal Mail, said, “We are proud to be working with Skyports to deliver via drone to some of the most 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.”
The drone in question, the Speedbird Aero DLV-2, is a multirotor model with a carrying capacity of up to 13 lbs (6kg). This service is the result of a joint effort by Royal Mail and Skyports Drone Services, in cooperation with Orkney Council Harbour Authority and LoganAir.
While drone delivery has been tested by Royal Mail before, this service is the first of its kind in Orkney. Previous trials included the first drone delivery to a remote lighthouse on the Isle of Mull in 2020 and a month-long trial from the Cornish mainland to the Isles of Scilly in 2021.
The success of these trials has led to the Orkney I-Port operation, scheduled to run initially for three months. Still, given Orkney's unique landscape and the islands' proximity, this could become a permanent fixture.
Alex Brown, director of Skyports Drone Services, emphasized the positive impact of the project: “By leveraging Drone Technology, we are revolutionising mail services in remote communities, providing more efficient and timely delivery, and helping to reduce the requirement for emissions-producing vehicles.”
The quest to improve the last mile of deliveries has seen various companies, including Amazon, exploring a range of new technologies. Drones, land-based robots, and even self-driving cars are being examined for their potential in reducing inefficiencies and costs.
In Orkney, the drone mail service signifies not only a considerable step forward for the community but also for the broader potential of drone technology in the delivery sector.
As the service takes off, it paves the way for similar initiatives throughout the UK, changing the face of mail delivery as we know it.
Photos courtesy of Daily Mail / Royal Mail
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