Royal Mail Brings Scottish Isle Closer With Drone

Few would say the nether reaches of Scotland’s Isle of Mull -- an hour by ferry from the mainland, then another hour or more on narrow, winding roads -- are easy to get to. But Britain’s Royal Mail Plc brought the distant coast of Mull a wee bit closer when it used a drone to deliver a package to a lighthouse on the island’s windswept north shore.

The package containing a hoodie sweatshirt was the U.K.’s first customer delivery by small self-piloted aircraft, the company said. It marked the beginning of trials of a service that Royal Mail aims to use in remote regions across the U.K.

“We’re looking at ways we can connect all of our customers faster,” said Nick Landon, chief commercial officer of the postal service. “Drones have a really good potential to allow us to do that.”

As the internet has sparked a massive increase in parcel deliveries and a sharp drop in letter writing, Royal Mail must adapt its business, and drones are a step in that direction.

The company has partnered with What3Words Ltd., a location service that has divided the earth into 57 trillion 3-meter by 3-meter squares and given each one a unique three-word code--in the case of the Mull delivery, clip.nurtures.shortage, near the lighthouse on Mull’s northern coast.

Those otherwise nonsensical codes can be used in lieu of postal addresses, and as part of the drone trial Royal Mail has asked residents of Mull to provide the three-word code of a suitable spot on their property where a drone could land to bring them deliveries.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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