After mail service trials, drone goods deliveries tested between Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Between the G7 summit, a surprise drone proposal video, and bird-mimicking craft developers, Cornwall sure seems to be making a lot of news as of late. Now, it’s creating another headline by testing automated drone delivery services to British islands 30 miles south of its coast.

First ever Cornish commercial drone deliveries tested

Cornwall authorities approved the three- to six-month trial of commercial drone deliveries from Land’s End airport to St. Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. The test operation of multiple drone flights each day follows a successful single trial run between Cornwall and Scilly on December 10. That exchange sent medical supplies to the islands with the return payload containing local products, including flowers, gin, and rum. 

Hopes are that the regular automated drone shuttles of up to 20 kg of goods will both bolster Scilly’s stocks of critical products and get urgently needed orders, like medicines or machine parts, to the islands faster.

That extension of commercial drone testing comes a month after the Royal Mail began its own trial postal service to Scilly in May. Like the pending schedule of commercial deliveries, the Royal Mail’s operations have necessarily used beyond visual line of sight mode to accommodate the long distances between both destinations.

Main drone objective: improve the lives of locals

Test traffic between Cornwall and the islands will be operated jointly by UK drone service company Flylogix and the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. The latter, founded in 1920, oversees most freight and passenger service between Land’s End and the islands and will be fine-tuning the drone tests to better meet the preferences and demands of Scilly residents. Serving locals, both partners stress, is by far and away their main objective.

“We’ll be working with the team at Land’s End Airport to skill them up on the technology and working with the communities on the Isles of Scilly to see what they need,” said Flylogix commercial director Chris Adams. “It can’t be about us telling them what they want. It is about them telling us. That way, we can adapt our drone service to their needs.”

Both the tests and their emphatic social focus are being funded by a $281,000 grant from business development companies linked to the Cornwall Council. There is, however, one very real for-profit, bottom-line goal in the otherwise civic-minded drone operation. It is hope that flights returning to England will allow Scilly businesses and artisans to sell ever larger volumes of their goods to the far bigger markets awaiting in Cornwall and the rest of England beyond.

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