This week, Royal Mail drone delivery takes a step forward with the first trial autonomous, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights between the UK mainland and an island, as they deliver Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), COVID testing kits and other mail to the Isles of Scilly.
The pandemic has given the project an important focus by delivering supplies to the most remote communities in the islands, but the Government-funded project, which has been developed in partnership with DronePrep, Skyports, Consortiq Limited, University of Southampton, Excalibur Healthcare Services and Windracers Limited, will help demonstrate Royal Mail drone delivery and all of its benefits. “The Windracers drone is also able to accommodate mail of most shapes and sizes, enabling more general mail to be transported to the islands as part of the trial,” says the announcement.
The flight route for the autonomous drones includes about 70 miles of BVLOS flight, which could provide valuable data for the entire industry as the global drone ecosystem works towards regularizing BVLOS flight.
“The project unites two pioneering companies that have previously acted in response to the UK COVID-19 challenge – Windracers and the drone delivery arm of air mobility company Skyports – for the first time. It will showcase how UAVs of different sizes could be used to complement each other in future,” says the announcement.
“Parcels will be flown to the islands’ airport in St. Mary’s, by a UK-built twin-engine Windracers UAV, which can carry up to 100kg worth of mail at a time – equivalent to a typical delivery round. A smaller VTO drone, operated by Skyports, will then be used to transport items to a number of delivery points throughout the islands.”
The Royal Mail drone delivery project complements the existing means of drone delivery to the Isles of Scilly. The drones have several advantages: “…they are able to fly in poor weather conditions – including fog – as they are uncrewed and not dependent on tides. This could potentially make them well suited to help Royal Mail better service remote island communities.”
“If the trial is successful, the technology will be considered by Royal Mail to help identify opportunities to support postmen and postwomen in delivering to very remote areas and addresses across the UK.”
Amy Richards, local postwoman for the Isles of Scilly, said: “It’s great to be involved in this initiative. There are some really remote areas on these islands, and this is a terrific way to help us reach them. 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.”