royal mail is building a fleet of 500 drones to transport mail to remote communities across the UK, including the Isles of Scilly and the Hebrides.
The postal service, which has already successfully conducted trials in Scotland and Cornwall, will create more than 50 new drone postal routes over the next three years as part of a new partnership with London Windracers company.
Drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), can help reduce carbon emissions and improve the reliability of the island’s postal services, Royal Mail says.
They offer an alternative to currently used delivery methods that can be affected by bad weather: ferries, conventional airplanes and ground deliveries.
They can also take off from any flat surface (sand, grass or asphalt) as long as it is long enough.
Drones are generally considered to be small devices, but each of the Royal Mail aircraft has a wide wingspan of over 30 feet (10 meters).
Royal Mail is building a fleet of 500 drones to transport mail to remote communities in the UK, including the Isles of Scilly and the Hebrides. Royal Mail has already conducted four drone trials in the past 18 months. The most recent was in the Shetland Islands
Drones are generally considered to be small devices, but each of the Royal Mail aircraft has a wide wingspan of over 30 feet (10 meters)
TESTS WITH DRONE ROYAL MAIL
In December 2020, Royal Mail made its first drone delivery to a remote lighthouse on the Isle of Mull using a smaller vertical take-off and vertical landing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
In May 2021, it conducted a month-long trial from the Cornish mainland to the Isles of Scilly, using a larger fixed-wing UAV to deliver essential mail, PPE and Covid test kits to the islands.
In October 2021, he tested autonomous scheduled flights for two weeks between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay (both in Orkney Islands) with Windracers Ltd.
The Royal Mail’s latest trial got the mail in between Tingwall Airport in Lerwick in Unst, Shetland Islands.
The first routes identified for the new service include the Isles of Scilly, the Shetland Islands, the Orkney Islands and the Hebrides, although the plans will be subject to approval by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
“On-time delivery regardless of our customers’ location or weather conditions, protecting our environment is our goal,” said Simon Thompson, managing director of Royal Mail.
“Even if we go everywhere, Royal Mail already has the lowest CO2 emissions per package delivered, this initiative will help further reduce our emissions.”
Each twin-engine UAV has a 32-foot wingspan and incorporates a “high reliability” autopilot system.
They can carry up to 100kg of mail of all shapes and sizes for two daily round-trip flights between the islands.
After being picked up from the landing sites, letters and packages are then delivered by the local postman in his van, so the human workers are not yet fully replaced.
Royal Mail wants to protect more than 50 drone routes supported by up to 200 drones over the next three years.
But in the long run, the ambition is to deploy a fleet of over 500 drones to serve all corners of the UK.
Chris Paxton, head of drone testing at the Royal Mail, told al BBC that drones were originally designed to deliver aid to Africa.
The postal service will create more than 50 new postal drone routes over the next three years, as part of a new partnership with logistics drone company Windracers
After being picked up from the landing sites, letters and packages are then delivered by the local postman in his van
Royal Mail has already conducted four drone trials in the past 18 months; the latest on the Shetland Islands in April carried mail from Tingwall Airport to Lerwick to Unst Airport, a 50-mile flight each way
They are very similar to a small plane, except that they do not have a pilot on board and make a planned route on their own, based on an entered postcode.
Drones are monitored en route to ensure they are completely safe; there are also safety pilots at either end of the route who are able to take control of the drone if needed.
Drones are also less likely to be affected by bad weather such as fog and heavy rain than conventional aircraft.
“The pilot doesn’t need to be able to see where they’re going, which means they can fly in the fog,” Paxton said.
“And because they fly rather than go overboard, they don’t rely on the tides.”
Royal Mail has already conducted four drone trials in the past 18 months; the last mail carried to the Shetland Islands in April in between From Tingwall Airport in Lerwick to Unst Airport: a 50 mile flight each way.
Royal Mail wants to protect more than 50 drone routes supported by up to 200 drones over the next three years. But in the long run, the ambition is to deploy a fleet of over 500 drones to serve all corners of the UK.
In May 2021, Royal Mail conducted a month-long trial from mainland Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly, using a larger fixed-wing UAV to deliver essential mail, PPE and Covid test kits to the islands.
Unst has a population of around 630 and is the most northerly inhabited island in Great Britain.
The other trials involved flights on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall and between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay on the Orkney Islands back in October.
Royal Mail made the UK delivery of the first drone package Isle of Mull in 2020, using a much smaller device.
The single package – a Selfridges jumper – was transported in the body of a small Skyports UAV to a remote Tobermory lighthouse.
In October, Royal Mail initiated a two-week test of scheduled autonomous flights between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands in partnership with Windracers Ltd
E-COMMERCE COMPANIES USE DRONES FOR DELIVERIES
Delivery companies are experimenting with a number of new technologies to tackle the last mile of deliveries.
Hopefully, vehicles can reduce the inefficiencies, and therefore the costs, of the final stage of delivery, where packages are brought from a central hub to your home.
Amazon plans to make last-mile deliveries with an army of autonomous drones that leave packages close at hand.
Amazon has billed the “Prime Air” service and says the drones will increase the overall safety and efficiency of its transportation system.
Amazon plans to make last-mile deliveries with an army of autonomous drones (pictured) that leave packages close at hand. Billed the “Prime Air” service
A single pilot could supervise multiple drones at the same time, meaning the company could someday pay fewer people to make the same number of deliveries.
Another company, Starship Technologies, provides its autonomous delivery service using ground-based robots.
Each six-wheeled “ground drone” is almost completely autonomous and is constantly connected to the Internet, using GPS to find its destination.
Walking on the pavement at around 4 mph (3 km / h), the robots can complete local deliveries within 5-30 minutes from a local hub or point of sale.
Self-driving cars are another last-mile option considered by some delivery companies.
Another company, Starship Technologies, provides its autonomous delivery service using terrestrial robots (pictured)
Supermarket operator Kroger is testing a fleet of self-driving grocery cars that can carry up to ten shopping bags to your home.
Customers can order groceries via Kroger’s website or mobile app and select same-day or next-day delivery.
Customers who take advantage of Kroger’s driverless grocery delivery system will still have to go to the curb outside the home to catch up on their groceries.