The Royal Mail is extending its use of drones to create 50 new “postal drone routes” that will deliver to some the country’s most remote islands.
Windracers, a logistics drone company, said the routes provide faster and more convenient services for remote communities.
The first routes for the new service include the Isles of Scilly off Cornwall, and the Scottish Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and Hebrides.
“Supply and logistics, especially to remote locations, has long been overlooked by the industry and is ripe for innovation,” said company chairman Stephen Wright.
“We've spent the last five years focused on developing the most commercially viable essential logistics drones so we're truly delighted to be working with Royal Mail on this ambitious and pioneering deployment of autonomous aircraft.”
The drones will also help reduce Royal Mail's carbon emissions and improve the reliability of island mail services.
Royal Mail now uses ferries, conventional aircraft and land-based delivery, which can be affected by bad weather.
“On-time delivery regardless of our customers' location or the weather, while protecting our environment, is our goal," said Simon Thompson, chief executive of Royal Mail.
“Even though we go everywhere, Royal Mail already has the lowest carbon-dioxide emissions per parcel delivered. This initiative will help reduce our emissions even further.”
Royal Mail said it was aiming to use up to 200 drones over the next three years, increasing to more than 500, servicing all corners of the UK.
It has conducted four drone trials over the past 18 months, including flights on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, the Isles of Scilly, and between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay on the Orkney Islands.
Test flights for the new service have been held between Tingwall Airport in Lerwick and Unst — an 80 kilometre flight each way.
Drones used in the trial can carry up to 100 kilograms of mail for two daily return flights between the islands, with letters and parcels then delivered by the local postal workers.