The Orkney Islands have become the first location in the UK to have mail delivered by drones.
The pioneering initiative, known as the Orkney I-Port operation, is a collaboration between Royal Mail and drone firm Skyports. The project aims to streamline mail distribution between the islands and improve service levels and delivery times for residents.
Working in partnership with the council’s harbour authority and Loganair, Royal Mail will transport letters and parcels from its Kirkwall delivery office to Stromness. From there, electric drones provided by Skyports will carry the items to the remote islands of Graemsay and Hoy, where postal staff will complete the final stages of the delivery routes.
Chris Paxton, Head of Drone Trials at Royal Mail, said:
“We are proud to be working with Skyports to deliver via drone to some of the more remote communities that we serve in the UK.
Using a fully electric drone supports Royal Mail’s continued drive to reduce emissions associated with our operations, whilst connecting the island communities we deliver to.”
One of the key advantages of the drone mail service is its potential to operate on a permanent basis due to Orkney’s unique landscape and the close proximity of the islands to one another.
While the initial trial period is set for three months, the service could continue indefinitely under existing regulatory frameworks.
The introduction of the drone delivery service is expected to bring significant benefits to the remote island communities. Weather and geography have often caused disruptions to traditional delivery services in the past, making it challenging for residents to receive mail promptly.
Introducing electric drones will also enhance safety for postal workers, who can now deliver between ports without facing unnecessary risks.
Alex Brown, Director at Skyports Drone Services, commented:
“By leveraging drone technology, we are revolutionising mail services in remote communities, providing more efficient and timely delivery, and helping to reduce the requirement for emissions-producing vehicles.
We’re pleased to once again be partnering with Royal Mail to demonstrate how drone operations can benefit UK logistics on this project.”
The inter-island flights will be conducted by Skyports using the Speedbird Aero DLV-2 aircraft, a highly capable multi-rotor drone with a maximum payload capacity of 6kg.
“The I-Port project also marks an exciting milestone as it is the first operation we are completing with aircraft partner Speedbird,” added Brown.
Funding for this innovative project comes from the Department for Transport’s Freight Innovation Fund, and it is being carried out by the Connected Places Catapult.
Rt. Hon. Alistair Carmichael MP for Orkney and Shetland commented:
“I was glad to attend the drone tests and see their development for myself.
Obviously, these schemes are still at trial stage and so we should temper our expectations. Even so, anything that helps to maintain the universal service – especially in areas of the isles which are more difficult to reach – is something that we should give a chance to support.
Royal Mail remains a critical part of keeping the isles connected – and local knowledge and care are vital to that network.”
The Orkney I-Port operation marks a significant step forward in the integration of drone technology into mainstream mail delivery services.
If successful, this pioneering initiative could pave the way for similar projects in other remote areas—benefiting communities and advancing the sustainability efforts of postal and logistics companies across the UK.
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