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Community / No decisions yet on Royal Mail drone flights in Shetland

Photo: Royal Mail

A NEW trial of Royal Mail drone deliveries in Orkney will inform whether a similar flights could take place in Shetland.

As part of a government-funded project, daily drone mail flights are taking place from Stromness to the Orkney islands of Graemsay and Hoy.

The project, in partnership with drone company Skyports, will initially operate for three months.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “The results of the work we are doing in Orkney will inform whether there is the possibility to extend into other geographies such as Shetland.

“We look to introduce drones where technology, regulation and economics allow.”

Last year the Royal Mail announced its intention to open 50 postal drone routes across the UK – and Shetland, as well as other island communities, was said to be among the first to benefit.

It followed trials of the technology between Tingwall Airport and Unst, and Kirkwall and Fair Isle by drone company Windracers.

Trial drone flights take mail from Tingwall to Unst

The hope is that delivering letters and parcels by unmanned drones will reduce carbon emissions and also improve the reliability of island mail services.

Drones would take mail to islands or communities before postal staff deliver them.

In the Orkney project staff have to be present watching the drone in the air.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said the company’s intention to scale up drone usage “was always subject to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval and the on-going planned improvement in drone economics”.

“The regulatory change required to fly drones permanently beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) in most areas of the UK has not taken place and so we are unable to invest in regular drone routes at present,” they added.

They said the Orkney project is the first UK drone delivery project which 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,” they said.

“This allows for flights to be conducted using extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) permissions rather than BVLOS permissions which require regulatory approval.”

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