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Royal Mail launches drone delivery service for remote Orkney residents


The Royal Mail has announced a permanent drone delivery service for the remote Orkney islands which lie off the north coast of Scotland.

Skyports Drone Services has been selected to operate the service with Brazilian drone manufacturer Speedbird Aero.

The electric multirotor DLV-2 drone, which has a payload capacity of 6kg and a range of up to 16km, was selected as vehicle of choice for the Orkney I-Port project due to its large payload volume, which makes it well suited to carrying cargo such as Royal Mail parcels. The aircraft is also equipped with a parachute.

The first drone deliveries were completed in July this year and will continue until at least October. The mail is first transported from Royal Mail’s Kirkwall delivery office to Stromness which are both on the Orkney Mainland. Once at Stromness, the drones are used to complete the final step of the journey to transport items over to delivery staff on the islands of Graemsay and Hoy.

The weather and geography of Orkney impacts the ability for Royal Mail to provide an uninterrupted delivery service for its residents and pauses in the ferry schedule – by which some mail is transported – are common during poor weather due to the challenges of docking safely.

Royal Mail Delivery

Image credit: © Skysports Drone Service

The DLV-2 aircraft has been selected due to its ability to fly in weather conditions that exceed the upper limits of the Orkney inter-island ferry.

Alex Brown, director of Skyports Drone Services, said: “Our approach to fleet development is to onboard a select number of vehicle providers that can match market growth, scale with us and meet the requirements of the locations in which we operate.

“Speedbird is an example of the type of manufacturer we love to work with; the company’s commitment to quality, safety and innovation make it best-in-class and an excellent addition to our fleet.

Skyports was previously selected to transport vital medical equipment and samples via drone in the Scottish islands of Argyll and Bute. 

The service was launched early on in the Covid-19 pandemic and was able to increase the speed of deliveries from up to 48 hours down to only 30 minutes and with a much higher frequency.

Manoel Coelho, CEO of Speedbird Aero, said: “Together, we will bring unrivalled efficiency to every drone logistics project we undertake, unlocking new possibilities for businesses and communities alike. Our focus on sustainability and innovation will pave the way for a greener and more connected future.”

Orkney I-Port flights will be conducted under existing regulatory frameworks, making it possible to extend beyond the initial three-month period. This is due to the proximity of the take-off and landing locations and the ability for flights to be conducted using extended visual line of sight.

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