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 operation is a daily inter-island mail distribution service between three islands on Orkney. The project will initially operate for three months, with the intent to extend in the future.
This is the first UK drone delivery project that can be conducted on a permanent basis under existing regulatory frameworks. This is due to the unique landscape of Orkney and the proximity of the islands to one another. Flights can therefore be conducted using extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) permissions rather than beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
Letters and parcels will be transported from Royal Mail’s Kirkwall delivery office to Stromness, from where Skyports Drone Services will deliver to Royal Mail staff on Graemsay and Hoy. From these locations, postal workers will carry out their usual island delivery routes.
The weather and geography of Orkney can impact the ability to provide an uninterrupted delivery service. For example, pauses in the ferry schedule – by which some mail is transported – are common during poor weather. The I-Port operation will improve service levels and access for rural communities, with much shorter delivery times to Graemsay and Hoy.
The use of electric drones for inter-island delivery will also bring safety improvements, ensuring postal workers can deliver between ports and marinas throughout Orkney without risk. There will also be emission savings.
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.