Royal Mail is sending drones to remote UK communities

Virgin Radio

16 May 2022, 00:06

A fleet of 500 drones is being prepared.

In the next three years the Royal Mail hopes that up to 200 drones will help carry the mail on 50 new routes. The first to benefit will be the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and the Hebrides.

For this to happen, the new services need approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and will depend upon the "ongoing planned improvement in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle economics".

Royal Mail has been testing the use of drones for some time, with the most recent trial held in April on the Shetland Islands. Those drones delivered mail between Tingwall Airport in Lerwick to Unst - Britain's most northerly inhabited island - a 41-mile flight each way.

But wait? Will nobody think of Postman Pat?

Thankfully the drones the Royal Mail plans to use do not have the ability to hover, and - settle down Pat - won't be replacing the postman or woman on their rounds.

The drones are large, 10m (32.8ft) wingtip to wingtip, with a range of 1,000km (621 miles) and able to carry up to 100kg (220lb). They are powered by two internal combustion engines.

Chris Paxton, head of drone trials at Royal Mail, told the BBC the drones were originally designed to deliver aid in Africa.

"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 the area is flat enough," he said. 

"They are very much like a small plane. And the only difference is there isn't a pilot on board."

The drones, he says, fly autonomously although they are supervised remotely by "safety pilots", who can take control if needed.

Earlier this month Snapchat released their own 'selfie' taking drone, Pixy. The gadget is available in France and the US, where the laws are more lenient around the use of drones than the UK.