Royal Mail has recently unveiled plans to deploy a fleet of more than 500 drones across the UK in a bid to reduce emissions and improve reliability in remote communities.
The initiative is being done in partnership with Windracers, a logistics drone company specialising in mail delivery. The plan will see Royal Mail use more than 50 drone routes and over 200 drones in the next three years.
Long-term, they hope to deploy more than 500 drones across the UK.
The company believes that the automated drones will help drastically cut down on carbon emissions. The drones would also replace the need for ferry or aircraft shipments that can be delayed by bad weather, in turn making their service to remote communities more reliable.
As such, Royal Mail is currently targeting coastal and island routes, including the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, and the Hebrides.
Royal Mail’s chief executive Simon Thompson said:
“On-time delivery regardless of our customer’s location or the weather, whilst protecting our environment is our goal. Even though we go everywhere, Royal Mail already has the lowest CO2 emissions per parcel delivered; this initiative will help reduce our emissions even further.”
The initiative, still subject to Civil Aviation Authority approval, is based on trials over the last 18 months, which saw drones used on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, on the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast, and between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay on the Orkney Islands.
The drone rollout is only the latest project by the Royal Mail aimed at reducing transport emissions.
Last year, the company announced that all of its company cars will be electric vehicles by 2030. By 2025, only EVs will be available to order, and by the end of this year, staff needing access to cars will be eligible for a “zero tailpipe emissions company car scheme”. Postal workers will be able to access EVs both through this scheme and a salary sacrifice initiative called MyDrive.
Currently, Royal Mail operates around 300 EVs, meaning these plans would increase the size of its electric fleet by ten-fold. In addition to EVs, Royal Mail is also exploring alternative fuels, adding 29 40-tones biogas-powered trucks to its fleet just last year.
This new drone initiative, however, will be the first of its kind in the UK and across much of the world.
Stephen Wright, chairman at Windracers Group, said:
“We’re truly delighted to be working with Royal Mail on this ambitious and pioneering deployment of autonomous aircraft. It puts the UK firmly at the forefront of this exciting sector.”
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