Scotland’s most remote schools are trialling the UK’s first drone delivery lunch service – and council leaders have said the eco-friendly takeaways are the quickest way to get food to schoolchildren.
Flying from Oban Airport, the trial will involve unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering meals prepared in Park Primary School to Lochnell Primary, which is just 1.5km away.
The initiative comes after Argyll and Bute Council, Scotland’s second-largest local authority area with 23 inhabited islands, teamed up with drone specialists Skyports to improve delivery services.
Council leader Robin Currie said the use of drones could bring “quite staggering” opportunities to communities.
He said: “We are committed to connecting remote and island communities to vital mainland services. The possibilities of using UAV’s to improve services to our communities is quite staggering.
“Argyll and Bute is the perfect location to test the efficiency of drone technology.
“We have already seen how drones can deliver essential media supplies to our islands and now we want to make sure all pupils have access to healthy school meals.”
Argyll and Bute Council received £170,000 of UK Government Community Renewal funding for the work, with further funding expected to enable the construction of the new hub by March 2025.
Currie added: “From maintaining our assets including roads and bridges to inspecting offshore wind farms, developing the use of drones will help develop skills, create jobs and attract further and investment to the area.”
Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart said: “Pupils can’t learn and play on empty stomachs, so the ability to deliver nutritious school dinners to remote and island schools in a faster, more cost effective and reliable way is hugely welcome.
“The use of drones has massive potential for improving public services for the region’s communities and UK Government funding is spurring these innovations as part of our £2bn for levelling up across Scotland.”
Alex Brown, head of drone deliveries at Skyports, said the trial was “an important stage in the development of deliveries of this type”.
He said: “Argyll and Bute Council’s readiness to explore how drone services can improve and enhance the lives of people across the local authority, combined with Skyports’ expertise and hundreds of flight hours in the region, makes this an exciting project with infinite benefits.
“The learnings from this early stage of the project will help to pave the way for wider-scale operations.”