Coming to Your Neighborhood: Drone Mail Delivery

The Royal mail in UK is sending mail parcels to hard to reach locations.

Royal Mail is trialing drones for deliveries to islands. Photo: Chris Gorman – Royal Mail.

With drone mail delivery in the works for the United Kingdom, is the US Postal Service (USPS) also considering use of Drones for mail delivery? The answer seems to be maybe according to recent announcements by the USPS.   

The USPS recently announced it is simply exploring the use of drones into its vehicle fleet to advance mail delivery operations and support its collection of geospatial, sensor, image and other data. The independent agency published a document of answers to potential participants’ questions; but geospatial imaging is not mail delivery, that is mail survey and analysis. 

Britain has gone much further by using drones in delivering mail and parcels to hard to reach locations. As announced by a Postal official; “The Postal Service recognizes that the ability of [unmanned aircraft systems] to supplement mail delivery and information collection can substantially benefit the country and further the development of other autonomous systems,” agency officials wrote in the original request for information. 

As reported in the May 9th issue of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, this question is now more relevant than ever since the 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.

Last year, the company delivered its first parcel via drone to a remote Scottish lighthouse. Photo: Chris Gorman – Royal Mail.
Last year, the company delivered its first parcel via drone to a remote Scottish lighthouse. Photo: Chris Gorman – Royal Mail.

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.

The “uncrewed aerial vehicle” (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.

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