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Royal Mail reveals ambitious vision for more than 50 new postal drone routes in partnership with Windracers Group

Photo credit: Colin Keldie, courtesy of SATE project

Routes would initially support deliveries to remote communities.

  • Royal Mail and Windracers Group today announce plans to establish a partnership that will focus on establishing more than 50 new postal drone routes over the next three years, subject to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval.
  • Island communities across the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and the Hebrides would be the first to benefit. 
  • Longer term, the ambition is to deploy a fleet of more than 500 Royal Mail-Windracers drones supporting deliveries across the UK.
  • Lower-emission drones can help further reduce Royal Mail’s carbon emissions and improve reliability of current island mail services which can be affected by bad weather.
  • Royal Mail is committed to working with the CAA to support its drone ambitions.

Royal Mail today set out its ambition to scale up its use of drone technology and create more than 50 new postal drone routes over the next three years, subject to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval, as part of a new partnership with Windracers, the logistics drone company.

The partnership will facilitate and operate uncrewed drones, or UAVs (Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles), to provide faster and more convenient services for customers in remote communities.

UAVs can help further reduce Royal Mail’s carbon emissions and improve the reliability of island mail services. They currently use ferries, conventional aircraft and land-based delivery which can be affected by bad weather.

The first routes identified for the new service include the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and the Hebrides.  

Subject to CAA approval and the on-going planned improvement in UAV economics, Royal Mail is aiming to secure more than 50 drone routes supported by up to 200 drones over the next three years. Longer term, the ambition is to deploy a fleet of more than 500 drones servicing all corners of the UK.

Royal Mail has already conducted four drone trials over the last 18 months including flights 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 latest trial was held last month (April) on the Shetland Islands in partnership with Windracers. A test flight over three days for the new service saw Royal Mail deliver mail between Tingwall Airport in Lerwick to Unst – a 50-mile flight each way. Unst has a population of around 630 people and is Britain’s most northerly inhabited island.

With a capability to fly in difficult weather conditions, the twin-engine UAV used in the trial has a wingspan of 10 metres and incorporates a high-reliability autopilot system. They can carry up to 100kg of mail of all shapes and sizes for two daily return flights between the islands. Letters and parcels are then delivered by the local postie. The trial was part of the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) project funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Royal Mail is committed to working with the CAA to ‘open up the skies,’ initially in targeted remote areas, to create permanent drone routes.

Simon Thompson, Chief Executive Officer at Royal Mail, said: “On time delivery regardless of our customers location or the weather, whilst protecting our environment is our goal. Even though we go everywhere, Royal Mail already has the lowest CO2emissions per parcel delivered, this initiative will help reduce our emissions even further.”

Stephen Wright, Chairman at Windracers Group, said: “The middle mile of supply and logistics, especially to remote locations, has long been overlooked by the industry and is ripe for innovation. We’ve spent the last five years focused on developing the most commercially viable essential logistics drones so 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.”


Notes to editors

For further information contact:

Royal Mail press office:

Environmental benefits

With the UK’s largest “Feet on the Street” network of over 90,000 postmen and women, Royal Mail already has the lowest reported CO2 emissions per parcel amongst major UK delivery companies. The expansion of alternative fuel vehicles such as UAVs, demonstrates the company’s commitment to reducing emissions associated with its operation, and to delivering a cleaner future. 

Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE)

The SATE project is the UK’s first low-carbon aviation test centre embedded in an operational airport. The project is hosting trials of aviation technologies including low-carbon aircraft and UAVs.

About Royal Mail plc

The Group consists of two principal operations; our UK-based operation which includes Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide (Royal Mail) and our international operation, General Logistics Systems (GLS). Royal Mail is the leading provider of postal and delivery services in the UK and the UK’s designated universal postal service provider. Through the Royal Mail Core Network, the company delivers a one-price-goes-anywhere service on a range of parcels and letters products. Royal Mail has the capability to deliver to more than 31 million addresses in the UK, six days a week (excluding UK public holidays). Parcelforce Worldwide operates a separate UK network which collects and delivers express parcels. General Logistics Systems (GLS) operates one of the largest ground-based, deferred parcel delivery networks in Europe.

About Windracers Group Ltd

Windracers – delivering essential logistics anytime, anywhere. Building on the history and tradition of aviation innovation in the UK, Windracers designs and builds drones that specialise in the delivery of essential air mail and parcel logistics to the people and places that need them, on time, every time, anywhere. Windracers drones are the most cost effective and reliable air mail and parcel delivery solution with no compromise on safety.  Our Solution simplifies and reduces all logistical touch points required for delivery to remote locations.  Windracers combines a complete service experience, making point to point operation and maintenance easy, a robust vehicle with a meaningful payload capacity of 100KG up to a distance of 1,000KM, a short take-off and landing distance. The solution is more sustainable, through the materials used in manufacture and is up to 30% more carbon efficient compared to crewed aircraft solutions. The Windracers UAV is controlled through a market leading autopilot and systems control solution – Masterless TM  – developed by our sister company, Distributed Avionics.