Royal Mail is to trial using a drone to send PPE, Covid-19 test kits and other items of mail from the UK mainland to the Scilly Isles.
The company said it would be the first parcel carrier in the country to deliver mail to a UK island using an autonomous flight, which would fly out of sight of any operator during the 70-mile journey.
A smaller drone, which is able to take off and land vertically, will fly parcels between the islands off the coast of Cornwall for delivery to their final recipients.
The month-long trial of scheduled flights from the mainland to remote communities on the islands is being funded by the government and involves a consortium including the University of Southampton and several drone companies.
A large, twin-engine uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV), manufactured in the UK by the Windracers Limited, will carry packages from the mainland to the islands’ airport in St Mary’s.
The UAV was designed to deliver supplies to people in remote locations and is able to fly in poor weather conditions, including fog. It can carry 100kg of mail of all shapes and sizes, which is equivalent to a typical delivery round.
The trial will focus on sending PPE and Covid test kits from the mainland, but the drones will also carry other parcels, including online orders from retailers.
If it is successful, Royal Mail said it would consider introducing the technology across its postal network to help support deliveries to more remote parts of the country.
Amy Richards, a local postwoman for the Isles of Scilly, said she was pleased to take part in the project: “There are some really remote areas on these islands, and this is a terrific way to help us reach them.”
Royal Mail delivered its first parcel using a drone last December, when it sent a package to a remote lighthouse on Scotland’s Isle of Mull. The company intends to begin a consultation with residents of the island in the coming months on the use of drones to deliver mail.