Skyports joins forces with Royal Mail to pioneer drone deliveries to Isles of Scilly

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Royal Mail has teamed up with Skyports, as well as DronePrep, the University of Southampton, Excalibur Healthcare Services, Consortiq Limited and Windracers Limited to provide better connectivity to the Scilly Islands’ remote communities, using autonomous scheduled drone flights.

The Government-funded project will initially focus on helping the fight the pandemic by delivering crucial PPE and testing kits to the islands’ most vulnerable and remote communities.

A large, twin-engine, UK-built UAV from Windracers Limited will be used to carry mail  from the mainland to the islands, and is able to fly in poor weather conditions, including fog, potentially enabling Royal Mail to better serve remote island communities. A smaller Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTO) drone operated by Skyports will then fly parcels between the two islands for delivery to recipients.

The project unites two pioneering companies – Windracers and the drone delivery arm of air mobility company Skyports – for the first time. It will showcase how UAVs of different sizes could be used to complement each other in the future.

Parcels will be flown to the islands’ airport in St. Mary’s by the twin-engine UAV, which can carry up to 100kg worth of mail at a time – equivalent to a typical delivery round. A smaller VTO drone, operated by Skyports, will then be used to transport items to a number of delivery points throughout the islands.

The UAVs will complement existing forms of transport for mail to the Isles of Scilly and if the trial is successful, the technology will be considered by Royal Mail to help identify opportunities to support postmen and postwomen in delivering to very remote areas and addresses across the UK.

The trial will also examine fuel efficiencies that the drones could provide, as part of the company’s continued drive to reduce emissions associated with operations.

“Drone technology has already proven its value as part of a network, bringing essential items such as mail or medical equipment to remote regions. Working with world-class partners such as Royal Mail, our team at Skyports has conducted a number of successful delivery programmes across the UK and beyond. It’s very gratifying to be part of this new project, using cutting-edge technology to connect communities and make a real difference to people’s day to day lives,” said Duncan Walker, CEO at Skyports.

Estonian Air Navigation Services collaborates with Frequentis on Estonian U-space

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Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS) is collaborating with Frequentis to accelerate the rollout of Estonian U-space (unmanned airspace) and allow drones to coexist in shared airspace with civil aviation, by integrating air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned traffic management (UTM) on the same platform.

Hosted in the Frequentis cloud environment, the project delivers a pre-operational system, to allow use cases and business cases to be defined, verified and trialed. In addition the experience Frequentis gained from previous projects, including the SESAR Gulf of Finland (GOF) U-space trials in 2019, has allowed the system to be adapted to the needs of EANS.

“The use of drone-based services is increasing constantly and drone traffic volume in urban air space is one of the biggest challenges we face,” said Jaanus Jakimenko, Head of CNS Department and Member of the EANS Management Board. “To cope with future demand and to continue providing safe airspace operations, we must ensure that all airspace users are aware of each other. It is crucial to have an efficient unmanned traffic management (UTM) system in place that also interacts with manned aircraft operations,” he continued.

He added that the 2019GOF project, which focused on ATM/ UTM integration testing the U-space concept of operations in seven advanced drone trials, provided EANS with the knowledge to quickly support the use of drones for emergency services during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. “It has also given us the needed assurance of Frequentis technological capabilities and knowledge of their experienced team. We are looking forward to enhancing our airspace operations in line with the growth of drone usage.”

The cloud-based system is provided as a managed service in the Frequentis cloud environment, allowing validation of use cases and business cases as well as UTM/ UAS trials. Furthermore, the cloud architecture enables a fully optimised deployment process, without the need for on-site activities. The current solution will enable EANS to move forward with realising Estonian U-space concept of operations and start implementing technological solutions to provide drones with safe and secure access to the airspace.

“The Frequentis platform allows drone operators to see airspace restrictions and flight rules, file flight plans, and receive updates from air traffic controllers in real time, supporting ANSPs with their goals for increased drone services to support their future tech economy,” said Guenter Graf, VP Frequentis New Business Development.