Plans for a drone hub to service Scotland’s islands using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have taken a step forward, receiving UK government funding.
Argyll and Bute Council has welcomed confirmation of the award of more than £170,000 from the UK government’s Community Renewal fund to create an UAV logistics hub at Oban airport.
The funding boost for the hub, which also features a drone-flying training academy, builds on the Argyll and Bute Rural Growth Deal proposal. The proposal includes plans for a vertiport take-off and landing facility at the airport. The award will help develop the business case for both the hub and academy facilities.
The Oban Airport hub is designed to be a high-tech base for electrically-powered drones to transport medicines, biological samples and cargo between islands and the mainland.
Councillor Robin Currie, leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said: “This new investment is extremely welcome news for Argyll and Bute and will deliver a significant boost to the region’s economic prospects. It takes us a step closer to establishing the UAV logistics hub which would see the area become a centre of excellence for this highly innovative use of drone technology and would lead to the creation of much-needed highly skilled jobs.
“Alongside the benefits for the local economy and employment, the use of this ground-breaking technology would be extremely valuable in terms of the lifeline the hub’s services would provide for our remote and rural island residents.”
The hub plans build on advance air mobility trials in the area. Last year, a Skyports initiative used drones to fly thousands of samples from the islands to NHS facilities over a three-month period, saving hours of travel time.
Alex Brown, director of Drone Services, Skyports, added: “In 2021 we transported Covid-19 tests, pathology samples and medicine up to 50 miles between NHS medical facilities in the Argyll and Bute.
“Alongside the flight trials, we have been working with Oban Airport to look at how permanent drone operations can service the highlands and islands. Having a dedicated drone hub would create skilled employment and bring further investment to the area. We’re incredibly excited about this project and look forward to working closely with the council and the health and social Care partnership to make Argyll and Bute the leading region in the UK for advanced air mobility”’
Additionally, Royal Mail are interested in UAVs as part of its service delivery and have undertaken trials with Skyports from Oban out to the isle of Mull. Inspecting and maintaining offshore windfarms could also benefit from the use of drones, the council added.