Midlothian drone manufacturer receives funding for new green heavy-lift unmanned aircraft

Thursday January 18th 2024

Flowcopter Loanhead

The Flowcopter which is developed in Loanhead. Photo credit Lee Live Photographer.

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

A Midlothian drone technology manufacturer has received almost £1 million from Scottish Enterprise to support the development of a new hybrid, heavy-lift, unmanned aircraft capable of operating on less than 30% of the aviation fuel used by a helicopter.

Flowcopter designs and manufactures Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and recently expanded into larger premises in Loanhead, Midlothian.

It will use £950,000 support from Scottish Enterprise to develop an industrial heavy-lift drone capable of carrying up to 100kgs of goods to target industries including retail, renewables, agriculture to emergency rescue and humanitarian aid.

The Flowcopter drone, called FC100, is the first of its kind and uses an entirely new type of hydraulic power take off which enables it to lift a heavy payload and fly for hours. It has the potential to reduce risks to aircrew in conflict or disaster zones by moving cargo to remote or difficult to access areas.

The technology could also be used for offshore wind operations and maintenance, remote logistics, crop dusting and wildfire fighting.

The grant complements a total investment in the company of £1.9 million and has supported the creation of at least seven new jobs, bringing the team to 17.

Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray visited Flowcopter alongside managing director of innovation and investment at Scottish Enterprise Jane Martin to see the drone.

Mr Gray said: “Flowcopter embodies the Scottish Government’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. This technology will drive improvements in Scotland’s economy and progress our vision to become one of the most innovative small nations in the world as set out in our National Innovation Strategy.

“Sustainable aviation is key to growing our green economy, and so it is encouraging to see the work happening here around cutting emissions and supporting the transition to net zero.

“The Scottish Government is in the early stages of developing a robotics cluster, with an ambition to be at the forefront of developing, testing and deploying Robotics and Autonomous Systems, including drones.”

Scottish Enterprise managing director of innovation and investment Jane Martin said: “Scottish Enterprise has provided financial support and tailored growth advice to Flowcopter and the company is set to scale new heights with its exciting plans.

“Flowcopter is an innovative and future focused business with ambitions to scale, exactly the kind of company who will help transform Scotland’s economy by delivering growth and high value jobs.

“Scottish Enterprise aims to build on its track record and boost business innovation to unlock thousands of new jobs and billions of pounds worth of global growth opportunities for Scottish companies.”

Flowcopter was founded in 2019 as a spin out from Artemis Intelligent Power prior to acquisition by Danfoss. Peter McCurry, Dr. Uwe Stein, Marek Szupryczynski and Dr. Niall Caldwell set up the company after identifying the huge potential that digital hydraulics offered for aerospace applications.

Flowcopter managing director Peter McCurry said: “The ongoing support we’ve had from Scottish Enterprise is fantastic and will enable us to develop our drone products further and access markets such as the offshore wind supply chain.

“We are using our proven, disruptive transmission technology to develop a completely new type of drone that is not available anywhere in the aerospace market. It is already generating significant interest from aerospace companies looking to decarbonise their operations.

“As we commercialise our technology and expand the team from our new base we will really see the business take off.”

This announcement follows Scottish Enterprise’s recent launch of a key plan called: ‘Our Focus on Economic Transformation’ and highlights the agency’s missions on energy transition, innovation and productivity.

Flowcopter’s drone uses 30% less aviation fuel than a modern helicopter and the development project will also investigate the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and hydrogen as potential net zero fuel sources contributing to targets set for aviation decarbonisation.

A mapping report from Scottish Enterprise and Optimat Ltd on Sustainable Aviation Fuel published in July 2023 describes the global and domestic market for SAF as a route to decarbonise aviation, building on the strengths Scotland has in renewables, green hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage as the feedstocks for these fuels.

The UK Government has set a mandate of SAF to contribute 10% of UK aviation fuels by 2030. This creates a market for 12m tonnes of fuel to be produced for use in commercial aircraft, helicopters and drones such as Flowcopter.

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