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Piloting First: Postal Deliveries in Orkney by Drone

Royal Mail and Skyports Drone Services have announced the launch of the Orkney I-Port operation, a drone delivery project established in partnership with Orkney Islands Council Harbour Authority and Loganair.

The drone with a box of letters underneath it
The electric multirotor DLV-2 drone, which has a payload capacity of 6kg and a range of up to 16km, was selected as vehicle of choice for the Orkney I-Port project due to its large payload volume, which makes it well suited to carrying cargo such as Royal Mail parcels. The aircraft is also equipped with a parachute. Image credit Skyports

This is the first UK drone delivery project which can be conducted on a permanent basis under existing regulatory frameworks.

Before the age of manned flight islanders had to wait on the steamship to bring in the post to Orkney. And then, Captain Ernest Edmund Fresson OBE, the pioneer of flight in the North of Scotland, flew the first airmail service from Inverness to Wick and Kirkwall on 29 May 1933.

Today, we have gone into a new era, that of unmanned flight as the drones will deliver the mail to Graemsay and Hoy for onward delivery by the local postie.

Speedbird Aero has been selected as the latest aircraft partner to join Skyports Drone Services’ drone fleet. The Brazilian drone manufacturer will provide its DLV-2 aircraft for Skyports Drone Services’ global delivery and logistics projects, starting with three months of inter-island delivery flights for Royal Mail for the Orkney I-Port project.

As the islands are close together the drone flights are 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 in Graemsay and Hoy.

From these locations, postal workers will then carry out their usual island delivery routes.

The I-Port operation claims to significantly improve service levels and access for rural communities, significantly shortening delivery times to Graemsay and Hoy.

The project also claims to be safer and with lower emissions.

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

The I-Port is one of the nine winning projects of the Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator, a programme funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by the Connected Places Catapult to support innovators with grant funding and business advice.

Skyports received £150,000 of grant funding to test Orkney I-Port operation as a part of the programme.

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