Visitors may have spotted a variety of unidentified flying objects over Inverness Campus this week. Not extra-terrestrial, this was a flying display of commercial drones and small unmanned aircraft as part of a special event for local businesses.
The week long programme looked at drone use across key industries, and attracted around 350 registrations at the #hellodigital demonstration centre and online.
Not for profit trade organisation ARPAS-UK, and member operators from the Highland based firms ROAVR, Caintech Ltd and STRATOS-UAS, teamed up with HIE's #hellodigital to provide a range of workshops for key sectors, including tourism, marketing, construction, forestry, agriculture, marine and those working in high risk environments.
Expert speakers included Jeremy Howitt, UAS Campaign Manager for QinetiQ, Neil Stoddart, Scottish Woodlands Ltd, Lewis McKerrow from Agrovista UK Ltd and Jimmy Slaughter, Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, SoXSA.
Andy Steven, Promote Shetland, spoke of how important drone footage has become in showcasing Shetland’s stunning landscape. The audience heard from three Shetland-based drone operators rising to this challenge the Shetland Flyer Aerial Media, Ronas Media Ltd and Alan Lindsay.
Senior students from Charleston Academy and Alness Academyalso came along with support from the University of Highlands and Islands STEM Hub.
Around a third of ARPAS members in Scotland are based in the Highlands and Islands. With drone use increasingly popular, safe and legal use has been a key focus of the week.
Doug Berry of Inverness based Stratos UAS, said: “It has been good to meet up with potential users and demonstrate that safety is embedded in the culture of Civil Aviation Authority licensed operators. There is a lot that we do behind the scenes to ensure safe operations that the customer does not normally get a chance to see.”
Matt Harmsworth, CEO at ROAVR based at the Beechwood Business Park, said: “It is vitally important to understand that once you decide to use drones within your business you become part of the wider aviation community, you must be trained, insured and hold a permit for commercial operations.
“We are seeing more and more companies outsourcing to consultancies such as ours for training and guidance in this area. It complements nicely with our traditional activity of inspection and media work. Legislation is constantly changing but in the UK we lead the world and that is set to continue.”
It’s an industry set for growth.
Sue Wolfe, Business Development Director at ARPAS-UK, commented: “Global unmanned aircraft markets are predicted to grow from a current $6.4 billion to $11.4 billion annually by 2024 (Teal Group, Jul 2014). One of the topics we explored during the week was what the future looks like. ARPAS is part of a UK consortium called AIRSTART, which is looking at developing technology, communications methods, and critically the capability to fly drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The ability to operate BVLOS will provide additional market stimulus.”
HIE's April Conroy, #hellodigital project manager, added: “There are great cost saving benefits to using drones in business. The events this week have been invaluable in getting first-hand advice from experts.
“Drone Week has proven very popular with over 350 registrations including those who registered to watch live online. Those who missed the seminars can watch online later.”
To playback seminars from #hellodigital go to: http://hellodigital.scot/watch/
To find out more about what’s happening at #hellodigital and to book tickets, please visit http://hellodigital.scot/events