UK mail delivery service Royal Mail is set to start flying packages over 70 miles to the Scilly Isles by drone. Once packages arrive at the islands, they will be divided up before smaller drones will deliver them to their relevant destination.
The idea of package deliveries via drone is nothing new. For a long time, package giant Amazon has been openly interested in the technology. In late August 2020, Simple Flying reported that Amazon had even received clearance from the FAA to begin drone trials. Now it seems as though the boxed goods giant has some competition from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Unmanned aerial deliveries inbound
Royal Mail is set to become the first parcel delivery service in the United Kingdom to use drones to deliver parcels. The company is set to use the “Windracers Drone” for flights between the UK mainland and the Isles of Scilly.
While the islands are only 30 miles from the mainland ‘as the drone flies’, there is no take-off and landing point directly at the coast. Additionally, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is not able to take off vertically. Initially, the focus will be on flying COVID-19 tests and PPE to the islands. Space is also available for traditional mail.
Data from RadarBox.com shows that the aircraft, G-WNDR, is based at Perranporth Airfield, near Newquay. The aircraft flies at a height of around 2,000 feet during its journeys to and from the Scilly Isles. Having taken off, the aircraft will fly out to the sea before flying in a straight line out of sight of the operators. Unfortunately, given the aircraft’s low altitude, it typically can’t be tracked near the islands.
On Friday, the aircraft flew out to the islands, departing Cornwall at roughly 06:00. It arrived back just before 08:00, giving a round trip time of around two hours.
About the aircraft
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the aircraft was built by Southampton University. It has been registered as an amateur-built unmanned fixed-wing landplane since October 20th, 2020. The aircraft has two engines and a maximum takeoff weight of 350kg.
According to Royal Mail, the drone can carry 100kg of mail on each trip. The company also states that the aircraft can be flown in poor weather conditions. As it isn’t reliant on tides, it could prove to be a more reliable method of transport than boats.
Once the aircraft arrives at the island, its cargo is divided up. It is then loaded onto smaller drones that do have vertical takeoff capabilities. These drones will then fly the parcels out to delivery points across the island group. Royal Mail is hoping that the trial can revolutionize deliveries to very remote parts of the UK. Late last year, the company’s first-ever drone delivery saw a package delivered to a remote Scottish lighthouse.
Commenting on the trial, Minister for Business Paul Scully said,
“The UK is at the forefront of the aviation revolution, developing newer and more fuel-efficient technologies. Royal Mail’s ‘air bridge’ to the Isles of Scilly will not only connect isolated and rural communities, but showcases the real-world potential drones have to truly transform our lives.”
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