Inter-Channel Island postal drone deliveries ‘possible in five years’


Inter-island postal drone deliveries could be possible within five years, according to Guernsey Post chief executive Boley Smillie. However, a lot of work is still to be done, he added.

In the UK Royal Mail is proposing that within the next three years up to 200 drones could help carry the mail on 50 new routes with the Isles of Scilly, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and the Hebrides. Smillie said Guernsey Post was in close contact with Royal Mail and he was hopeful of seeing the technology used in the Bailiwick during his career.

“We have been keeping a close eye of drone technology and we have for some years now, particularly with the logistics of using drones to deliver to hard-to-reach communities,” said Smillie “For us, we already have a very reliable network in place, so there is no immediate urgency to bring in drones, but it is interesting to see how we could.”

One of the big challenges is ensuring postal drones can operate safely which means working closely with regulators. Guernsey Post will be looking at specifically inter-island transportation, which is safer than over land.

Smillie said: “I don’t see drones being used domestically on-island, but certainly between the islands, especially for things like urgent deliveries, like medical supplies or prescriptions. Perhaps in the next five years we may see deliveries between the islands. We are waiting for the technology to become affordable and develop to make it safer.”

Mail to Herm and Sark is carried by boat from Guernsey, while Alderney’s letters travel by air and its parcels by boat. Smillie said he was interested to see the increase in weight that drones were able to carry as technology improves.

“When we started to look at this, which was probably five years ago, the possibility of drones have the capacity to fly at far as Alderney was unthinkable. But now that is quite achievable. We would not like to put time scales for how quickly it could develop,” he explained.

Separate from Guernsey Post, local authorities have been in talks with a consortium of companies with a view to seeing how drones might benefit Guernsey and its surrounding islands.