A drone logistics operation called Orkney I-Port aims to provide connectivity, access and safety throughout the rural island region north of Scotland. The fully electric drone logistics project established in partnership with drone operator Skyports, Royal Mail, Orkney Islands Council Harbour Authority and Loganair aims to deliver two new capabilities: Daily inter-port delivery of Royal Mail items and the demonstration of shore-to-ship deliveries. The I-Port project is one of the first UK drone delivery projects conducted on a permanent basis under existing regulatory frameworks, a milestone made possible due to the unique landscape of Orkney.
Orkney’s island geography and harsh weather impact the ability to provide an uninterrupted delivery service. Postal deliveries arrive from mainland Scotland to Kirkwall Airport via the Loganair RMA Orkney Flyer, where they are delivered to residents on Orkney’s main island, mainland, or transported to one of the 19 other inhabited islands via ferry or small passenger plane. Pauses in the ferry schedule are common during poor weather due the challenges of docking safely.
Skyports Drone Services will establish a daily inter-island mail distribution service, initially operating between three locations across Orkney for three months, with the intent to extend. Post will be delivered by ground transportation from Kirkwall to a Stromness hub and transported by drone to Royal Mail sites on Graemsay and the North of Hoy, from where postal workers will carry out their usual island delivery routes.
The new service, which is set to launch in Q2 2023, aims to save time, cost and emissions and improved connectivity for island residents. The project’s shore-to-ship flight operations will demonstrate the benefit of a seamless link between Orkney Islands Council Harbour Authority and vessels in its port.
Skyports Drone Services will provide logistics for several use-cases, including delivery of documentation and provisions and the transportation of bunker samples. Alongside the demonstration, Skyports Drone Services will conduct a feasibility study in partnership with Loganair to explore the future of heavy payload operations in Orkney.
The I-Port project is funded by the Department for Transport’s Freight Innovation Fund and executed by the Connected Places Catapult. The fund focuses on accelerating the adoption of commercial solutions to address challenges in the UK’s freight sector and make it more efficient and cleaner. Skyports Drone Services is one of nine winners of the Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator.
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