UK mail delivery service Royal Mail is set to start flying packages over 70 miles to the Scilly Isles by drone. Once packages arrive at the islands, they will be divided up before smaller drones will deliver them to their relevant destination.
The idea of package deliveries via drone is nothing new. For a long time, package giant Amazon has been openly interested in the technology. In late August 2020, Simple Flying reported that Amazon had even received clearance from the FAA to begin drone trials. Now it seems as though the boxed goods giant has some competition from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Unmanned aerial deliveries inbound
Royal Mail is set to become the first parcel delivery service in the United Kingdom to use drones to deliver parcels. The company is set to use the “Windracers Drone” for flights between the UK mainland and the Isles of Scilly.
While the islands are only 30 miles from the mainland ‘as the drone flies’, there is no take-off and landing point directly at the coast. Additionally, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is not able to take off vertically. Initially, the focus will be on flying COVID-19 tests and PPE to the islands. Space is also available for traditional mail.
Data from RadarBox.com shows that the aircraft, G-WNDR, is based at Perranporth Airfield, near Newquay. The aircraft flies at a height of around 2,000 feet during its journeys to and from the Scilly Isles. Having taken off, the aircraft will fly out to the sea before flying in a straight line out of sight of the operators. Unfortunately, given the aircraft’s low altitude, it typically can’t be tracked near the islands.
On Friday, the aircraft flew out to the islands, departing Cornwall at roughly 06:00. It arrived back just before 08:00, giving a round trip time of around two hours.
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About the aircraft
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the aircraft was built by Southampton University. It has been registered as an amateur-built unmanned fixed-wing landplane since October 20th, 2020. The aircraft has two engines and a maximum takeoff weight of 350kg.
According to Royal Mail, the drone can carry 100kg of mail on each trip. The company also states that the aircraft can be flown in poor weather conditions. As it isn’t reliant on tides, it could prove to be a more reliable method of transport than boats.
Once the aircraft arrives at the island, its cargo is divided up. It is then loaded onto smaller drones that do have vertical takeoff capabilities. These drones will then fly the parcels out to delivery points across the island group. Royal Mail is hoping that the trial can revolutionize deliveries to very remote parts of the UK. Late last year, the company’s first-ever drone delivery saw a package delivered to a remote Scottish lighthouse.
Commenting on the trial, Minister for Business Paul Scully said,
“The UK is at the forefront of the aviation revolution, developing newer and more fuel-efficient technologies. Royal Mail’s ‘air bridge’ to the Isles of Scilly will not only connect isolated and rural communities, but showcases the real-world potential drones have to truly transform our lives.”
What do you make of these drones being trialed by Royal Mail? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!
For a relatively small airline, Corsair was a pretty prolific user of the Boeing 747 family of aircraft.…
For a relatively small airline, Corsair was a pretty prolific user of the Boeing 747 family of aircraft. Over the course of 30 years, the airline operated 23 of the type across all five members of the product line, from the original -100 to the popular -400 and even the rare 747SP. Last March, as the pandemic bit, the airline took the decision to retire the last of its Queens. Let’s see what happened to all those aircraft.
The first 747s to arrive at Corsair were the 747-100s. June 1991 saw the arrival of two, and over the next three years, another three arrived with the airline. The very first to arrive was an ex-Pan Am 747, which had also flown for Lionair and Air France before arriving with Corsair. Interestingly, after the aircraft was withdrawn from use in 1995, it got a repaint as fictional airline Oceanic and the fake registration N707CK in order to appear in the Kurt Russel and Steven Segal film ‘Executive Decision.’ You can watch the dramatic ‘landing’ of the plane in the clip below:
The rest of the -100s had less glamorous endings to their operational life. The second to arrive, F-GKLJ, was withdrawn in 2000 and stored at Chateauroux, where it was broken up two years later. F-BPVD was leased from Air France, and therefore returned to that airline when it was finished at Corsair. It was scrapped in 1994, broken up at Oklahoma City.
The other two were similarly withdrawn from use and scrapped. F-BPVE was scrapped in around 1998, while F-BPVG went on to work for Air Atlanta Icelandic for a couple of years after being withdrawn from the Corsair fleet, but was ultimately stored at Pinal Airpark in 1999 and scrapped in 2004.
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Just like the -100s, Corsair operated five 747-200s over the years. The first arrived in 1992 as a 21-year-old aircraft. It had been taken new by KLM, spent time at Air Siam and Garuda Indonesia, and then joined the Corsair fleet in December that year. Details on when it was withdrawn are sketchy, but it was eventually broken up in March 2003 at Paris Orly Airport.
Another came by a similar route, KLM and Garuda, in February 1995. That one was scrapped at Chateauroux in 2002.
The final three were short-term leases to the airline, likely to provide capacity during busy summer periods. The first was CN-RME, a Royal Air Maroc aircraft that spent summer 1997 with Corsair before returning to its owner. It’s been stored since 2002.
The other two were British aircraft. G-BDXE was a British Airways 747-200, transferred to European Aircharter in 2002 and leased by Corsair for the summer of 2005. It was broken up at Kemble in the UK in 2007. G-BDXF came by the same route, British Airways to European Aircharter, and was also leased to Corsair for summer 2005. In a similar trend, it was broken up at Kemble in 2006.
Six 747-300s flew for Corsair between 1997 and 2007. The first had flown for Singapore Airlines and Ansett Australia before arriving with Corsair. It stayed with the airline for seven years before joining the Air Atlanta Icelandic fleet.
Interestingly, after being sent for storage at Kemble, the aircraft was transported by road from Gloucestershire to Herefordshire, causing quite a stir. Its destination was the Pontrilas Army Training Area, where it is now preserved as a SAS training aid.
The other five have all, over the years, been scrapped. Most stayed with Corsair for between three and five years, but all had arrived as older aircraft. As such, there was limited value left in the 747s by the time Corsair finished operating them.
The most recent members of the Corsair fleet were the 747-400s. Corsair operated six different aircraft over the span of 15 years. Just like the other Queens, these did not arrive with the airline new.
The first arrival was F-WSEX, which had flow with United Airlines from new in 1993. It moved to Corsair aged 12 in February 2005, and stayed there until it was withdrawn from use in 2011. It was stored at Victorville for two years but then, surprisingly, found a new home. It hopped over to Kano Airport to be operated on behalf of Ariana Afghan Airlines. It continued to fly until 2017.
The next two similarly came from United Airlines as relatively old aircraft. Both flew for around seven years with the French airline before being withdrawn and eventually scrapped.
At the start of 2020, Corsair still had three 747-400s in its fleet. But as the pandemic bit, the airline prepared to wave goodbye to the last of its Queens. All three had been delivered new to United Airlines in 1992 and 1993, arriving at Corsair at around 12 years of age.
All three were withdrawn from use by the end of March 2020. As you can imagine, there’s not much of a second-hand market for 28-year-old 747s right now, so all are in storage at present.
F-HSEA and F-GTUI are both stored in the UK at Kemble. F-HSUN was at Kemble for a while, but was moved to Pinal Airpark in August 2020.
Corsair was one of a handful of airlines to operate the rare 747SP. With only 45 built, not many airlines can lay claim to operating the SP, but Corsair did for a total of eight years.
As with its other 747s, the SP was well used when it arrived at Corsair. It had been in service with South African Airways from new in 1976, and had spent almost 10 years at Royal Air Maroc since 1985. Aged 18, it arrived with Corsair in October 1994, where it operated to long-haul destinations including Bangkok and Los Angeles as well as closer routes to Helsinki and Mallorca.
According to 747SP.com, the aircraft suffered several incidents in its lifetime. In 1997, it hit a finger of the terminal at Paris Orly and was grounded for three days while a panel was replaced. In June 1999, it suffered a wingtip collision with a Philippine Airlines aircraft at Los Angeles International. The wing was severely damaged and the fuel tank was punctured, leading to a two-week grounding.
Finally, at the same airport in September 1999, it was heading to Tahiti from LAX when it entered a closed taxiway contrary to the ATC instructions. It struck several parked vehicles with its number four engine, including two tractor-trailer rigs and a pickup truck.
Nevertheless, it was back in service a few weeks later, and continued to fly with Corsair until September 2002. It was ferried to Chateauroux for storage that year, but rather than being broken up, it is being preserved as an educational vehicle. The aircraft is used by GIGN – Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) for training exercises.
Did you ever fly on any of Corsair’s 747s? Let us know in the comments!
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