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Royal Mail Makes UK’s First Drone Delivery to Scottish Isle

Michael Behr

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Royal Mail

With the Christmas shopping season leading to a rise in deliveries, the use of drones can help residents in remote areas get their presents faster.

A consortium led by the Royal Mail has delivered the UK’s first ever package by drone to the Isle of Mull.

The package, containing a hoodie, was delivered to a lighthouse on the north coast of the island. As part of the delivery, Royal Mail said it worked alongside a host of drone companies, including DronePrep, Skyports and what3words.

Normally taking an hour to reach via ferry, deliveries then need to navigate the island’s network of small rural roads. Houses can also be physically isolated from roads, requiring long walks to deliver post.

Royal Mail Chief Commercial Officer Nick Landon said: “”Delivering the first live parcel in the UK by an unmanned drone was a landmark day for us. We are incredibly proud to be working with DronePrep, Skyports and what3words to trial new ways to support the more remote and isolated communities we serve.

“This is part of our constant drive to incorporate the best innovative technologies into our network. We’ve seen a huge increase in parcel volumes this year and this is just one of the ways we are looking at to support our frontline delivery staff and deliver fast, convenient and green services for all of our customers.”

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The delivery is part of the Royal Mail’s trials to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to reach remote parts of the UK. The trials are set to begin in 2021.

These will see the consortium engage with Mull’s community to explore the use of drones to make further deliveries.

Skyports has already established a presence on the island, where it has been using its drones to help NHS Scotland with the response to Covid-19.

Chief Executive at Skyports, Duncan Walker said: “We are delighted to contribute our experience of flying delivery drones for the NHS around the Isle of Mull to this exciting project.

Delivery drones are already proven as a fast and reliable solution for transporting packages to poorly connected rural communities. This trial with Royal Mail, what3words and DronePrep has the potential to lay the foundations for a future service to complement the one provided by Royal Mail’s hard-working posties that we rely on today.”

The delivery used a geocoding system developed by London-based company what3words. Its system divides the world into around 57 trillion three-metre-by-three-metre squares, with each assigned a random three-word code.

In the delivery, the drone dropped off the package at clip.nurtures.shortage, which is near the lighthouse on Mull’s north coast.

These random three-word sequences can be used by drones in lieu of a postal address when making deliveries.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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