First regular drone delivery service lifts off in UK

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UK’s first drone delivery service launched by Royal Mail in Orkney

The U.K’s Royal Mail has launched a daily drone delivery service for a group of Scottish islands in the far north of the country, making it the first regular postal service in the country to be powered by a remotely controlled copter.

The new mail delivery operation serves Orkney, a community of around 22,000 people living on 20 of its 70 small islands about 10 miles north of the mainland.

Following lengthy tests of the drone delivery service with Skysports Drone Services, Royal Mail recently launched the mail delivery service from the village of Stromness on Orkney’s main island to the nearby islands of Hoy and Graemsay, though the plan is to extend its reach over time.

The service uses a pilot-operated Speedbird Aero DLV-2 aircraft to carry consignments of letters and parcels weighing up to 13.2 pounds (6 kilograms) to postal workers on the islands, who then deliver them to individual addresses in the usual way.

Before the drone service started, Royal Mail’s delivery operations could be impacted by poor weather, with rough conditions making it hard for mail-carrying ferries to dock. The drone, on the other hand, can simply zip across the water to drop off its consignment. Royal Mail says that the drone will make its delivery services to the rural communities more reliable, safer, and cleaner than before.

Chris Paxton, head of drone trials at Royal Mail, commented on the initiative, saying: “We are proud to be working with Skyports to deliver via drone to some of the more remote communities that we serve in the U.K. Using a fully electric drone supports Royal Mail’s continued drive to reduce emissions associated with our operations, whilst connecting the island communities we deliver to.”

Alex Brown, director of Skyports, said: “By leveraging drone technology, we are revolutionizing mail services in remote communities, providing more efficient and timely delivery, and helping to reduce the requirement for emissions-producing vehicles.”

While there’s been much talk of drone delivery services in recent years — with Amazon, for example, investing hugely in the platform — regulatory hurdles in many countries have prevented wide-scale deployment of such services. But with relatively small initiatives like these, and drone technology advancing all the time, it’s hoped that delivery networks can gradually be expanded over time, offering a faster and cleaner way to get things delivered.

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