Has the drone been yet? Parcel delivered to Mull in UK first

The drone on Mull with Alexa Kershaw. The image shows the three metre square and its unique 'what3words' identifying address

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A drone has been used to deliver a parcel to a lighthouse on the Isle of Mull in a ground-breaking trial for the UK.

It means the Royal Mail has become the first UK parcel carrier to deliver post by drone.

The package was delivered to Alexa Kershaw, of Rubha Nan Gall Lighthouse and Keeper’s Cottage near Tobermory.

And a consultation with islanders will now take place in 2021 about using drones to deliver to some hard-to-reach addresses on Mull.

As the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, the technology aims to help support postmen and postwomen.

Royal Mail postman Tom Nunn with a drone and the what3words address

Tom Nunn, a local postman for the Isle of Mull, said: ‘I am very pleased to be involved in this fantastic trial.

‘It is an exciting opportunity to test out new ways of working to support us posties that deliver in some of the most remote areas of the UK.

‘Some of the houses on the Isle of Mull include a 30-minute walk to the front door so the use of drones will be a huge help!’

The trials saw the Royal Mail team up with drone companies DronePrep and Skyports.

The latter has already been in Oban this year helping the Lorn and Islands Hospital and NHS Scotland use drones to deliver to Mull as part of the response to Covid.

The trial used ‘what3words’ address technology. That involves every three metre square in the world labelled with a unique address of three words.

Currently, all Royal Mail deliveries across the UK sees parcels routed to their  general destination by postcode.

Where it could differ in future for remote locations on Mull, local posties could use drones for specific addresses.

In next year’s consultation, residents interested will be invited to use the ‘DronePrep’ platform to assess the viability of their property for a drone delivery.

They would then be required to pinpoint a suitable landing location within their ownership using what3words.

It would only apply to parcels sent via Royal Mail and delivered by Royal Mail van.

Nick Landon, chief commercial officer at Royal Mail, said of the project: ‘Delivering the first live parcel in the UK by an unmanned drone was a landmark day for us.

‘We are incredibly proud to be working with DronePrep, Skyports and what3words to trial new ways to support the more remote and isolated communities we serve.

‘This is part of our constant drive to incorporate the best innovative technologies into our network.

‘We’ve seen a huge increase in parcel volumes this year and this is just one of the ways we are looking at to support our frontline delivery staff and deliver fast, convenient and green services for all of our customers.’

Gareth Whatmore, chief executive officer of DronePrep, said: ‘In the last couple of years, drone technology has matured and with it the industry’s ability to solve real world challenges.

‘Our collaboration with our superb partners Royal Mail, Skyports, what3words and the residents of the Isle of Mull is a huge opportunity for us all to learn more about how drones can complement and supplement existing Royal Mail delivery services.

‘We are both delighted and proud to lead on this innovative collaborative project.’

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder of what3words added: ‘By labelling every three metre square in the UK with three words – a what3words address – recipients are very easily able to communicate their desired drone delivery location.

‘Our technology perfectly complements traditional addresses, but by adding a layer of accuracy when needed. 2020 has demonstrated the need for fast, reliable deliveries and what3words is a perfect tool to assist Royal Mail on their mission to continue to innovate.’

Duncan Walker, chief executive of Skyports, said: ‘We are delighted to contribute our experience of flying delivery drones for the NHS around the Isle of Mull to this exciting project.

‘Delivery drones are already proven as a fast and reliable solution for transporting packages to poorly connected rural communities.

‘This trial with Royal Mail, what3words and DronePrep has the potential to lay the foundations for a future service to complement the one provided by Royal Mail’s hard-working posties that we rely on today.’

For more on what3words, visit https://what3words.com/daring.lion.race