IT biz trials gadget deliveries by drone to sidestep traffic and emissions

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a hard drive!

A UK IT maintenance outfit is testing out drones to deliver equipment to customers, claiming this will help with sustainability measures of all things.

Based in Berkshire, the English county that lies to the west of Greater London, Smart CT is currently trialing drone deliveries, with initial test runs limited to one nearby customer. The company said it is assessing how this pilot delivery went before making further trials.

Smart CT, which provides replace and repair support for managed service providers, said it envisions drones being used to deliver relatively small items such as iPads or new headsets to business users, rather than having to dispatch a delivery van. The trial is understood to have involved a hard drive being carried.

Smart CT drone delivery trial

Smart CT drone delivery trial

This is being framed as a way of helping Smart CT meet its sustainability targets, but would surely help in getting urgently needed replacement parts to customers more quickly if it (ahem) takes off.

"From day one we've been trying to identify ways we can become more sustainable," CEO Andy Morgan said in a statement. "The drone delivery is just one of those ways because it is not only a more direct means of getting parts to our customers quickly, but it also reduces emissions, fuel consumption and pressure on our road network."

The company is based in Twyford, close to Reading and the M4 corridor, which is the UK home of many tech companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Dell, and Nvidia. Traffic snarl-ups in the area are said to be common.

Smart CT already uses electric vehicles, but as a spokesperson told us: "If drones can take away two or three of those road journeys a week, that doesn't sound much but it makes a difference over a whole year."

There are some hurdles that need to be overcome, as the company admits. Deliveries direct to retail premises may not be possible, so hubs might be needed for the drones to deliver to, plus there is the thorny issue of getting authorization from the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a commercial service.

Other companies are also pushing drone delivery services. Amazon last year disclosed plans to expand its Prime Air delivery operations to the UK and Italy, and also unveiled a new drone design. Alphabet's drone delivery service, Wing, likewise unveiled a new drone model last year, and currently operates in Finland, Australia, and Ireland, as well as the US.

The Reg also reported last year that the Royal Mail was trialing a drone-based delivery service for the Orkney islands, situated off the northeast coast of Scotland. This was planned to operate initially for three months, with the intention of extending the project in future. ®

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