New drone could help with mountain rescues and humanitarian aid delivery

The Midlothian-designed flowcopter is being supported by almost £1m of Scottish Enterprise funding.

A new drone being built in Midlothian could be used to help with mountain rescues, deliver humanitarian aid and transfer goods to offshore wind platforms.

The flowcopter uses an innovative form of hydraulic power and can lift up to 100kg.

Designers hope it can act as an alternative to using helicopters for similar tasks.

But it will cost less to buy and be cheaper to maintain. It also operates on less than 30% of the aviation fuel needed to power a helicopter.

The project has been supported by £950,000 in funding from Scottish Enterprise, which has helped the company behind the drone to expand its team to 17 people and move to a new base in Loanhead.

Managing director Peter McCurry said: “We all know about drones, there’s lots of small drones out there doing a lot of useful work in the world.

“But small drones are quite limited in terms of endurance and pay load, which limits their capabilities and limits what you can do in real world terms.

“Here in flowcopter we’re developing a completely new class of drone, which is designed to fly for hours, not minutes, and lift significant payload.”

It’s hoped the flowcopter will be used in a range of settings – both in Scotland and overseas.

Mr McCurry added: “We’re targeting areas like off-shore wind turbine support, search and rescue, and remote logistics for island communities, all of which have helicopters used for them today.”

Scottish Enterprise, which is a non-departmental body of the Scottish Government, is keen to help such projects get off the ground.

Wellbeing economy secretary Neil Gray got a first hand look at the drone, alongside Scottish Enterprise managing director of innovation and investment Jane Martin, at the manufacturer’s Midlothian base.

Gray told STV News: “It’s incredible to see the innovation that is demonstrable here at flowcopter and to see the difference that Scottish Enterprises’ investment has made to develop this new technology.

“Innovation is absolutely central to our economic ambition.

“Because this is world leading technology, I think the market is even bigger than the Scottish market.

“Obviously there are great opportunities for the technology to be deployed here across the likes of search and rescue, across our off-shore wind maintenance and distribution but there are other capabilities as well.”

Martin added: “A really exciting young business actually, developing new technology that we think will really be game changing, it’s a world first.

“It’s great to see it in-person, it’s always great to come out to visit companies to see what’s happening on the ground.

“I’m always massively impressed with the innovation that’s going on in Scotland, and how it can be applied to markets globally.”

For the moment, testing is limited to in-doors for the flowcopter.

But it’s anticipated it will have permission to take to the skies soon, with manufacturers hopeful of wider distribution later this year.

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