A drone has successfully carried NHS supplies from the mainland to the Isles of Scilly for the first time, which was then sent back loaded with gin.
The unmanned aircraft delivered an NHS supply box to St Mary’s airport in a 60-mile round trip which marks the first-ever drone freight delivery between two commercial airports in the UK.
This ground-breaking trip has been heralded as ‘paving the way’ for a new lifeline connection with the remote islands off the coast of Cornwall.
The drone then returned to Land’s End airport with local floral and alcoholic produce from the islands.
Currently, most freight is carried to the islands by ship, with some being taken alongside passengers on planes.
Currently, most freight is carried to the islands by ship, with some being taken alongside passengers on planes
The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, ISSG, said the flight paved the way for a new lifeline connection with the remote islands off Cornwall
The unmanned vehicle returned to Land’s End airport with local produce including gin and flowers
But it is hoped drones could now carry items including medical supplies such as Covid tests and urgent vehicle parts.
The project is a collaboration between The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group which provides boat and plane transport to the islands, and Hampshire-based company Flylogix.
Following the successful flight there are now plans to introduce a daily drone freight service between the mainland and Scilly next summer.
If the three-month trial is successful, a ‘full commercial operation’ using a ‘bespoke’ drone could then be up and running within two years.
Stuart Reid, chief executive of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which has provided a link from the Cornish mainland to Scilly since 1920 and owns Land’s End Airport, said: ‘When a group of islanders formed the Steamship Company all those years ago they scarcely could have imagined today’s amazing milestone, delivering goods using an unmanned aircraft.
‘We’ve shown that a drone freight service is not only technically feasible but that there is demand for its potential to deliver time-sensitive and high value items for the island community, using aircraft that have 98% fewer emission than a manned equivalent.’
It is hoped that the future that drones could carry items including medical supplies and urgent vehicle parts
The project is a collaboration between the ISSG, which provides boat and plane transport to the islands, and Hampshire-based company Flylogix
Charles Tavner, Executive Chairman of Flylogix, added: ‘This is a very significant test flight because it paves the way for us to work with the community on Scilly towards a scheduled commercial drone service and breaks new ground in the UK for the integration of unmanned aircraft with manned commercial flights.
‘Truly valuable services must be informed by what a community really needs so we are delighted to partner with the Steamship Company to build this new service together’
The move was also welcomed by the Council of the Isles of Scilly. Chairman Robert Francis, said ‘This has the potential to be an important additional delivery option, particularly for urgent or time-sensitive payloads such as medical tests or machine parts.
‘It could also improve resilience for our remote island community during the winter months or periods of bad weather. Congratulations to those involved in this successful first flight.’
The aircraft will initially be used for items including medical supplies like Covid tests and specialist boat parts.
If successful, larger unmanned aircraft could be used to take regular cargo and potentially luggage to the islands in the future.