Drone deliveries launched in Orkney

The Royal Mail and Skyports Drone Services have announced the launch of the Orkney I-Port operation, a project conducting the daily delivery of letters and parcels between three islands on Orkney using fully electric drones.

Skyports Drone Services will conduct the inter-island flights with the Speedbird Aero DLV-2 aircraft, which is capable of carrying payloads of up to 6kg. 

Letters and parcels will initially be transported from Royal Mail’s Kirkwall delivery office to Stromness. From here, Skyports Drone Services will conduct drone deliveries to Royal Mail staff on both Graemsay and Hoy. Postal workers will then carry out their usual island delivery routes.

The project will initially operate for a three-month period, with the intention to extend in the future. This is the first UK drone delivery project which can be conducted on a permanent basis under the existing regulatory framework. This is due to the unique landscape of Orkney and the proximity of the islands to one another, allowing flights to be conducted using extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) permissions.

A number of benefits are anticipated through the operation, including:

  • Uninterrupted delivery service, as there is less reliance on ferries which are often paused due to challenges docking safely during poor weather.
  • Reduced delivery times to Graemsay and Hoy, improving service levels.
  • Greater access to rural communities which are more difficult to reach.
  • Significant safety improvements, ensuring postal workers can deliver between ports and marinas throughout Orkney with reduced risk.
  • Emission savings.

Alex Brown, Director, Skyports Drone Services, said: “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.  We’re pleased to once again be partnering with Royal Mail to demonstrate how drone operations can benefit UK logistics on this project. The I-Port project also marks an exciting milestone as it is the first operation we are completing with aircraft partner Speedbird.”

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 more 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 Orkney I-Port operation is yet another great example of how drones are being used to revolutionize what we do and benefit society.