Argyll & Bute drone hub receives funding boost

THE UK Government has backed plans for the creation of a drone hub to service Scottish islands with unmanned flights.

Argyll and Bute Council welcomed more than £170,000 in funding from Westminster for the build of an unmanned aerial vehicle innovation logistics hub at Oban airport.

The funding boost for the hub and a drone-flying training academy builds on the Argyll and Bute rural growth deal proposal, which includes plans for a vertiport take-off and landing facility at the airport.

The local authority said the Oban Airport hub will be a high-tech base for electrically-powered drones to transport medicines, biological samples and cargo between islands and the mainland.

Argyll and Bute Council is working in partnership with Skyports, a drone-landing infrastructure design and delivery company, to develop plans. Last year, a Skyports initiative using drones to fly thousands of samples from the islands to NHS facilities over a three-month period, saving 11,000 hours waiting time.

The council said that Royal Mail are also interested in UAVs as part of their service delivery and have undertaken trials with Skyports from Oban out to the island of Mull. Inspecting and maintaining offshore windfarms could also benefit from the use of drones.

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.”

Alex Brown, director of drone services of 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.”