Drone specialist set for take-off at groundbreaking new facility

23/02/23 | Sector/Industry News, Tenant News

A pioneering company specialising in the development of drone services including deliveries, surveys and monitoring operations, is spreading its wings as it looks to provide medical supplies to remote communities.

With its UK flight operations based at Westcott Venture Park, Skyports Drone Services is carrying out ground-breaking delivery trials in locations across the globe, including Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) deliveries in Kenya and  school meal deliveries in Scotland. These trials are being performed in anticipation for regular drone deliveries in hard-to-reach and rural locations in the future.

Recent operations follow the success of a three-month initiative in Scotland last year where Skyports Drone Services carried Covid-19 test samples and other medical materials between healthcare facilities in the Argyll & Bute region. In doing so, Skyports became the first operator to receive permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority to carry diagnostic specimens by drone in a contract funded by the European Space Agency.

Delivery times performed with Swoop Aero Kookaburra III aircraft were cut from up to 36 hours for a road and ferry journey to 15 mins, while the frequency of pick-ups was also increased.

Skyports has chosen Westcott as its European flight operations headquarters and is currently based at the Westcott Innovation Centre within the Westcott Space Cluster. It will also be the first drone operator to move into Westcott’s new Drone Test and Development Centre which Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Bucks LEP) has invested in via the Government’s Getting Building Fund.

The location will be developed as the Skyports Drone Services global command and control centre for delivery and surveillance drone missions, enabling remote operations of flights. The company will also create a centre of excellence for its pilots.

Strategy and Operations Manager of Skyports Drone Services, Michael Merritt said: “We are very proud to be the first resident of the Westcott Drone Test and Development Centre which is the new home for our expert operations teams.  

“This environment now fosters innovation and research and enables us to demonstrate and extend our capabilities. The Drone Test and Development Centre will be instrumental to our future flights. The wider Westcott Venture Park space has already become a key hub for our drone services. As we grow as a company, the value of the site will only increase.

“I’d like to thank the Bucks LEP for sourcing the funding which made building the centre possible. There are only four similar facilities in Europe to this and the plans for Westcott will make it the very best drone port in Europe, not only in terms of technical capability, but also due to the ability to fly, the competitive rates and the broader benefits it brings to the industry.

“The impact that drone deliveries can have on individuals and the communities they live in is transformative. Through its investment, Bucks LEP is promoting innovation and helping to realise the benefits that permanent, regular drone operations can deliver.”

In addition to the tangible benefits that Skyports Drone Services demonstrates with its rural drone deliveries, the company is working across several other industries in the UK and globally.

“We carry out marine surveillance for the Singapore government and we’ve flown many flights for the Royal Mail – to name just a few of our projects. To get to this stage in the industry – and as a company has taken a lot of work in terms of demonstrating safety, securing the right permissions and working closely with regulators. This industry, rightly so, is heavily regulated.”

Skyports Drone Services has secured agreements to fly in 13 countries, including France, Singapore, Ireland, UK, Japan and Malaysia.

“The permissions we’ve secured to date are testament to our safety record and operational excellence. We always put safety first as this is essential not only for the future of Skyports Drone Services operations, but for the growth and success of the wider industry.”

John Rippon, Programme Manager of the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The new Drone Test and Development Centre will help shape and transform private and commercial aviation over the next decade.

“None of this has happened by accident – we have been working hard to develop the strategic context by liaising with Government departments to bring such facilities to reality through Growth Fund investment.

“As a result, Skyports Drone service capabilities have been enhanced and now it can develop its world-class pilot centre of excellence benefiting countries around the world. This is an excellent example of how we can build a platform for sustainable economic growth in the entrepreneurial heart of Britain.”

Space clusters are successfully delivering UK space sector growth at sites such as Westcott, where an eco-system of established companies is working collaboratively to undertake research and development of market-leading technologies and services.

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