Royal Mail plans fleet of 500 drones for rural deliveries





British postal service Royal Mail is planning to use a fleet of 500 drones for deliveries to rural locations.

The pandemic reminded many of us of the vital role the humble postie plays in keeping people connected. However, many rural communities struggle to access the services we often take for granted due to their location.

Royal Mail wants to change that and has identified over 50 postal routes it wants to create using drones over the next three years.

The company is partnering with logistics drone firm Windracers on the effort and the first routes identified for the service include the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, and the Hebrides.

Stephen Wright, Chairman at Windracers, said:

“The middle mile of supply and logistics, especially to remote locations, has long been overlooked by the industry and is ripe for innovation.

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.

It puts the UK firmly at the forefront of this exciting sector.” 

The UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) will provide faster and more convenient to customers in remote communities.

Royal Mail has conducted four trials in the last 18 months. The most recent trial was held last month on the Shetland Islands where a UAV made the 50-mile flight (each way) between Tingwall Airport in Lerwick to Unst.

In the trial, a twin-engine UAV with an autopilot system was used to make the trip. Once at the destination, the drone is unloaded and letters and parcels delivered by the local postie. Each UAV can carry up to 100kg of mail of all shapes and sizes.

Beyond helping to connect rural communities, Royal Mail believes the UAVs will help it to further reduce its carbon emissions.

Simon Thompson, Chief Executive Officer at Royal Mail, commented:

“On-time delivery regardless of our customer’s location or the weather – whilst protecting our environment – is our goal.

Even though we go everywhere, Royal Mail already has the lowest CO2 emissions per parcel delivered, this initiative will help reduce our emissions even further.” 

The rollout will be subject to approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) but Royal Mail is aiming to deploy 200 drones over the next three years to support over 50 new routes.

Long-term, Royal Mail said it’s aiming to more than double that number to create a fleet of 500 drones “servicing all corners of the UK”.

(Image Credit: Colin Keldie, courtesy of SATE project)

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Tags: deliveries, drones, logistics, royal mail, uav, windracers




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