In a first for the UK, Orkney – an archipelago off the north-eastern coast of Scotland – has launched a drone delivery service on a permanent basis, aiming to optimise post delivery for local residents.
The operation is the result of a collaboration between Royal Mail, Skyports Drone Services, Orkney Council Harbour Authority and LoganAir.
The newly introduced service, named the Orkney I-Port operation, is set to manage the distribution of letters and parcels between the islands.
The process will commence with the transport of post from Royal Mail’s Kirkwall delivery office to Stromness.
Following this, drones will ferry the items to postal workers on Graemsay and Hoy, facilitating their routine island delivery duties.
The drone delivery service will start with a three-month pilot phase.
Considering Orkney’s distinctive topography and the proximity of the islands, the service could potentially extend beyond the trial period under the existing regulatory frameworks.
The service is anticipated to enhance delivery times and service levels, particularly on Graemsay and Hoy, where geographical and weather-related issues often hinder regular delivery services.
In addition to efficiency, the drone-based delivery method also contributes to safety.
Using electric drones for inter-island delivery minimises potential hazards associated with postal workers travelling between ports.
The Connected Places Catapult oversees the operation, which has received financial support from the Department for Transport’s Freight Innovation Fund.
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 most 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, while connecting the island communities we deliver to.”
Echoing Paxton's sentiments, Alex Brown, director of Skyports Drone Services, said: “By leveraging drone technology, we are improving 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 be once again partnering with Royal Mail to demonstrate how drone operations can benefit UK logistics on this project.”