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Community / Trial drone flights take mail from Tingwall to Unst

The large drone at Tingwall Airport on Friday. Photo: Lowrie Deyell

DRONE technology which could revolutionise the way some mail, medicine and other supplies are transported to remote communities is being trialled in Shetland this week.

A small, unmanned fixed-wing aircraft capable of carrying up to 100kg of mail is carrying out trial journeys from Tingwall Airport to Unst and to Kirkwall.

The machine is operated by Windracers, which has also carried out similar trials in Orkney, the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles.

Last year it also ran a test flight between Kirkwall and Fair Isle.

Measuring 10 metres from wing tip to wing tip, its appearance is closer to that of the SIC’s inter-island planes than the small drones commonly used for photography and leisure purposes.

It is said to be able to fly up to 2,000ft and can operate in poor weather conditions.

Representatives of Windracers have been tasked with carrying out test drone flights for Royal Mail but have emphasised that there is no risk to the jobs of frontline postal staff with “local knowledge that is second to none”.

The petrol-fuelled aircraft is capable of flying from Tingwall to Unst and back without refuelling, though it will need to fuel up after making the 170km+ journey to Kirkwall.

Last month Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) boss Inglis Lyon said the large drones could represent a “quantum leap forward” in connecting communities.