ELECTRIC drones are to be used by the Royal Mail as part of delivery services in Orkney.

Skyports Drone Services have teamed up with the Royal Mail, Orkney Islands Council Harbour Authority and Loganair to establish an inter-island mail distribution service which relies on the use of drones.

Currently, postal deliveries arrive from mainland Scotland into Kirkwall Airport and are then transported to one of the 19 inhabited islands by ferry or small passenger plane.

However, changes in the ferry schedule are common due to poor weather which can result in significant delays to residents receiving their mail.

One part of the project will see a daily inter-island mail distribution service established. Post will be delivered by ground transportation from Kirkwall to a Stromness hub and then transported by drone to Royal Mail sites on Graemsay and the North of Hoy, where postal workers will then carry out their usual island delivery routes.

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The new service, which is set to launch in the coming months, will provide considerable benefits including time, cost and emission savings and improved connectivity for island residents.

Alex Brown, director at Skyports Drone Services, said: “Rural and maritime logistics are contingent on access, weather and personnel; if one of these factors is compromised, so too is the ability to provide a safe and reliable service.

“Orkney is just one example of a hard-to-reach location that will benefit significantly from regular recurring drone operations. We’re looking forward to showcasing how our flights can improve existing services on the island, improve connectivity for residents and support the work of Orkney’s postal staff.”

Additionally, a shore-to-ship flight operation will be rolled out to deliver documentation and provisions between Orkney Islands Council Harbour Authority and vessels in its port.

Skyports Drone Services will also carry out a feasibility study to explore the future of heavy payload operations in Orkney, which could see drones transporting items such as packages, food and medical supplies.

David Dawson, Orkney councillor and chair of the council’s development and infrastructure committee, said: “Orkney has a strong tradition of playing a central role in the introduction of new ways of doing things, advanced technologies and innovation.

“The proposals within this project offer some interesting opportunities for our island communities - and I'm sure they'll be watching with interest as things develop.

“The possibility of drone deliveries from shore to ship in particular, could add an extra dimension to the services provided by our Marine Services team, vital as we look to position ourselves as innovators within the marine and harbour operations sphere.”