Royal Mail Wants a Fleet of 500 Drones to Carry Mail to the Remote UK Communities

To help deliver the mail to remote communities in the UK, The Royal Mail seeks a fleet of 500 drones. It hopes that about 200 drones will help carry the mail on new routes in the next three years. The islands first benefitting from these changes would be the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, and the Hebrides. To make it a reality, the approval of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is needed.

Royal Mail stated that the new routes would depend upon the "ongoing planned improvement in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle economics." It has been testing drone use for a while now. The most recent trial was held on the Shetland Islands in April. The drones delivered mail between Tingwall Airport in Lerwick to Unst, a 41-mile flight each way.

No Replacements

Many companies aim to deliver via autonomous drones that winch down packages from hovering vehicles. The Royal Mint plans to use drones that don't deliver, and they won't replace postmen or women doing their rounds.

The Drones

The drones Royal Mail wants to use are large, measure about 10m, and have a range of 621 miles or 1,000km. They can carry about 220 lb or 100 kg of weight and are powered by two internal combustion engines.

Chris Paxton, head of drone trials at Royal Mail, shared that the drones were originally designed to deliver aid in Africa. He said, "They are able to take off in a relatively short space and land in a similar short area. So they are capable of landing on fields, providing the area is flat enough. They are very much like a small plane. And the only difference is there isn't a pilot on board."

He also mentioned that the drones could fly autonomously, but they will be remotely supervised by safety pilots who can take control if required. The drones are designed to cover the middle mile. Once the cargo is unloaded, the packages will be delivered by postal workers only.

The Benefits

The Royal Mail believes that drones can help reduce carbon emissions. They can also work smoothly in bad weather as compared to conventional aircraft.

Paxton stated, "There is no need for the pilot to be able to see where they're going, which means they can fly in fog. And because they're flying rather than going on the sea, they're also not relying on tides."

Addressing the Problem

Analyst Kay Wackwitz of Drone Industry Insights state that the middle mile transportation "addresses an essential problem for remote regions." He said, "In comparison to ferries, island delivery can be done more quickly, more flexibly, and at a smaller ecological footprint."

The Permission

The Royal Mail will need CAA approval to fly the drones for delivery. The CAA stated that it was in the "very early stages" of discussions with Royal Mail about its plans.

Paxton said, "We are working with them, we're committed to working with them to open up the skies, and confident that we'll be able to do that."



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