Royal Mail’s Scilly idea for drone deliveries takes off


MP Derek Thomas sees at first hand the trial drone at St Mary’s Airport, with Royal Mail’s operations manager for Cornwall, Stuart Sugden

26th May 2021

By Juliet Lunam

Derek Thomas, MP for St Ives, West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, has been observing the latest technological advances in postal services.

Mr Thomas visited St Mary’s Airport to witness Royal Mail’s trial of the first out-of-sight, autonomous scheduled drone flight between the UK mainland and the Scilly Islands.

So far, the drone has been used to deliver personal protective equipment and covid testing kits as well general mail to the islands.

Royal Mail said it had also become the first organisation to execute inter-island parcel deliveries across to the Scillies from Penzance.

The government-funded project has been developed in partnership with DronePrep, Skyports, Consortiq Limited, the University of Southampton, Excalibur Healthcare Services and Windracers Limited.

If successful, the technology will be considered by Royal Mail to help identify opportunities to support postmen and postwomen in delivering to remote areas and addresses across the UK.

Mr Thomas was briefed by Royal Mail’s operations manager for Cornwall, Stuart Sugden, Russ Schild, who is manager air traffic services and airport at St Mary’s Airport, and Charles Scales, the chief executive of Windracer, on how the trial has been going.

He also heard about the benefits drone delivery brings to customers living in remote areas and the environmental benefits of this type of delivery.

The trial will examine fuel efficiencies the drones could provide, as part of Royal Mail’s continued drive to reduce emissions associated with its operations.

Mr Thomas said: “Protecting the right for residents to receive their mail in a timely manner wherever they live is vital but we must find ways to do this in the most environmentally-friendly way possible.

“I’m delighted Cornwall and Isles of Scilly are the hosts of this trial, simply because our ambition to lead the way when it comes to delivering a green resilient economy knows no bounds.”

Mr Sugden said: “It was great to have Derek come and see the new technology.

“This trial is helping us to explore more environmentally friendly, efficient ways to deliver to remote parts of the UK, including The Scilly Isles, in all weathers.”

Gareth Whatmore, chief executive at DronePrep, said: “This project has given us the opportunity to understand how multiple drone delivery platforms can be utilised to overcome and solve real world logistical challenges.

“With the introduction of drones to complement existing supply chains we have huge opportunity to improve the island connection.

“It has been a privilege to lead on this project and bring together leading UK drone companies and real end users like Royal Mail and Excalibur Healthcare Services to all learn together exactly how we can use drones to improve the robustness of delivery services to remote communities.”

Charles Scales, chief executive officer at Windracers, said: “It’s been a privilege to serve the Isles of Scilly with our ULTRA UAV. This project has proven the efficiency and robustness of ULTRA, with each round trip being 211km and being completed in less than two hours.”