Royal Mail has announced plans to introduce 50 new routes where deliveries will be made using drones over the next three years, which could improve the mail service to Scotland's islands.
The first routes which will see the use of unmanned aircrafts could include the Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and the Hebrides - moving away from the use of ferries and aircraft which can be disrupted by bad weather.
Under a partnership with logistics drone company Windracers, and subject to Civil Aviation Authority approval, the move will provide faster and more convenient services for remote communities, said Royal Mail.
Announcing plans to use up to 200 drones over the next three years, Royal Mail expects the aircrafts to reduce carbon emissions and improve the reliability of island mail services.
Royal Mail has conducted four drone trials over the last 18 months, including flights on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast and between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay on the Orkney Islands.
Drones used in the trial can carry up to 100kg of mail for two daily return flights between the islands, with letters and parcels then delivered by the local postman or woman.
Simon Thompson, chief executive of 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 CO2 emissions per parcel delivered. This initiative will help reduce our emissions even further.”
Stephen Wright, chairman of the 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.”