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