Royal Mail and Skyports launch Orkney drone deliveries backed by Freight Innovation Fund

Skyports Drone Services and Royal Mail have begun to deliver parcels and letters by drone between the Orkney Islands.

As reported by BBC News, the islands have become the first location in the UK to receive mail by drone. The new service is the result of the Orkney I-Port project which has seen Skyports Drone Services and Royal Mail work in partnership with Orkney Council Harbour Authority and Loganair. The project received £150,000 earlier this year as part of the first accelerator backed by the Department for Transport’s Freight Innovation Fund, which is delivered by Connected Places Catapult. The three year, £7 million fund aims to accelerate the adoption of freight technologies and develop future opportunities. 

The drones will carry mail between Stromness and the nearby islands of Graemsay and Hoy for a trial period of three months, and can carry up to 6kg at a time. This is the first UK drone delivery project which can be conducted on a permanent basis under existing regulatory frameworks. This is due to the unique landscape of Orkney and the proximity of the islands to one another. This allows for flights to be conducted using extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) permissions rather than beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) permissions. 

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

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.” 

In May, Skyports Drone Services’ Commercial Project Manager Michael Merritt was welcomed on to Connected Places Catapult’s Freight Innovation Cluster Advisory Board featuring 17 participants to help provide strategic overview of developments in freight logistics.