Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Unbelievable! TWO positive drone stories in a row!

After noting a positive drone story yesterday, regarding their potential application in the delivery of medical supplies in remote parts of Scotland.

I’m shocked and stunned to see ANOTHER one today.

A 3D digital map of Canna and Sanday has been created to provide a new perspective of the isles’ archaeology.

A fixed-wing drone was used to take more than 4,000 photographs of the islands, which are managed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

NTS said Canna and Sanday in the Small Isles had been the subject of the most detailed mapping exercise ever undertaken of any islands in the world.

The project has mapped the location of dozens of archaeological sites.

New sites were also found in the photographs taken by the drone.

Paul Georgie, of GeoGeo, said his team spent five days on Canna in “miraculously calm and clear weather”, with the drone navigating itself over a total distance of 248 miles (400km).

Drone’s mapping of Canna and Sanday ‘a world first’

I’m even more intrigued to see the project utilised a fixed wing drone, and did not just fall in line with the fad for rotary wing types.


Fixed Wing Drone Pic Credit GeoGeo

Fixed Wing Drone Pic Credit GeoGeo

It’s a shame that it’s usually the lowest common denominator moron drone misuse and abuse stories that hit the headlines and get all the publicity.

01/02/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Maps, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

THAT’S unusual – a POSITIVE drone story!

It’s sad, but true, that the noisiest hinge get the attention, even if it’s not the most deserving.

Nearly all the publicity and attention given to drones through the media is adverse, negative, and hostile.

That’s partly understandable, bad news sells, while few pay any attention (or feed advertising clicks) for good news stories where the bottom line is… nothing interesting or sensational happened.

I follow a lot of drone development stories (for their technical, R&D content) and know that a lot of unacknowledged progress is being made, but since it doesn’t involve airports being closed, or some sort of panic or outrage – nobody features it.

So, I have to give this little story a mention.

The potential of using drones to deliver medical supplies to GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes is being investigated in the Highlands.

NHS Highland is working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the University of the Highlands and Islands on the project.

The health board said drones could potentially pick up and deliver items across its regions.

NHS Highlands area includes the Caithness, Skye and Argyll.

The health board said the project, which is based in Inverness, was still in the early stages.

A spokesman said: “They could be used to transport goods and supplies across the region, delivering and picking up items from sites including, but not limited to, GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes.”

Drone plan to carry medicines in Highlands considered

It really is a shame more attention/publicity is not given to schemes such as this, which are much more practical, useful, and realisable than the more high-profile schemes seen, and usually negatively criticised, which are much larger, more expensive, and even controversial. And just too big.

I’d say we need to curb the big, high-profile schemes, and concentrate on smaller, more practical applications.

Get those right – and the fancy stuff can come later, if it’s really needed.

It may not be the same as flying (which actually has less obstacles), but this is now almost TWO years old, and shows that autonomous delivery driving can be achieved!


31/01/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | | Leave a comment

My first drone

My first drone – but not mine as in owned (that sort of expense, for a worthwhile one, is a thing of the past), rather it appears to be my next door neighbour’s new toy.

Playing the same trick I would, and flying it within his own property boundary, I spotted this more as a movement in the corner of my eye, rather than from the sound of its rotors.

I’m guessing (you can’t tell a lot against a bright sky at distance) it’s a one of the budget models – lots of nice features, but all built from the cheap end of the market, and sold in the toy department rather from a model shop or drone supplier. They may not be ‘pro’, but I have been impressed by the features on offer from a certain TV shopping channel recently. The ‘bendy’ aspect of many parts is particularly clever, meaning that unlike a robust drone, they bounce rather than break with things go wrong.

It flew well enough, and was stable when left to hover on its own, but when it did manoeuvre, there was no sound of ‘power’ from the motors or rotors, as heard from a ‘pro’ drone, which tends to ‘beat the air into submission’ as it moves fast.

It’s only the second one I’ve seen – the first was a long time ago, in the local park, where the guy flying it grabbed it out of the air and stuffed it into the back of the car and drove of as I walked into the park and spotted him.

I’ve heard one or two, but never caught sight of anything.

And a more interesting development in recent weeks has been the sound of electric aircraft, as in fixed wing models. Again, heard as the sound drifts over, but never anything to seen. But these are even smaller than those seen when the noisier glow engine was the normal power source.

Funny thing, I couldn’t find a stock image that looked as simple as the one I spotted, so had to fettle a similar item.

Even this one is more complex than the actual drone, which looked like little more than three straight rods in the usual ‘H’ drone format, with a thicker body (no camera slung below, so probably built-in, as most cheap commercial items tend to be), and a rotor at each corner.

There were no rotor guards, or even any sort of undercarriage apparent.

Black Drone Zoom Blur

Black Drone Zoom Blur

08/07/2018 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , | Leave a comment

A positive drone story slipped through the media censor net

In a double first, authorities are claiming the drone-assisted rescue seen in the video below is a ‘World First.

I’d say it’s a double because this must be one of the few drone stories reported by the media with any sort of positive aspect.

It’s also notable that I found this as a Guardian report, as source often mocked for not being part of the rabid media.

It would take too long to list the usual complaints and whining noises heard when drones are featured in the media, and usually grossly misrepresented, since the problem is generally not the drone as such, but some moron who has it under their ‘control’.

I sadly doubt this marks a change though, and the media will continue to home in on those who suffer from drone-phobia, and it will be business as usual for those who just want to shoot them down if they see one, or imagine they see them about to collide with their jet (but never have evidence, apart from the one ‘hit’ that turned out to be a plastic bag when inspected on the ground).

19/01/2018 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Drone rules and regs set to be ramped up with apparently more police powers

There’s a sad irony (for me at least) as I watch the development of drones (and arguing about the meaning of that word makes no difference, language changes to meet the needs of the day, get over it), having been a radio-control modeller in the past.

For pure fun, I jumped in with both feet almost the first day serious electric buggies arrived, starting with completely sealed waterproof ‘go anywhere’ chassis (which was soon stripped down to almost nothing as I didn’t go anywhere wet), that I probably doubled the intended speed of, and advanced to a 4-wheel drive beast with differentials, and souped-up with high power motor, extra cells to increase the drive voltage, and electronic speed control to dump the mechanical thing that came in the box. Sadly for the maker’s good efforts, I made it 2-wheel drive, as drifting it was a LOT more fun.

Then I got hooked on the start of decent radio-control helicopters, but that never went really well, as I was forever suffering technical issues that meant more time on the ground than in the air, but I did learn the basics, and never crashed.

The irony is that in those days, RC helis cost way more than drones, and did not fly themselves in any way. We were lucky to have one gyro, compared to the multiples fitted to drones.

Cost and ability kept the sky clear in those days.

Today, drones are relatively cheap (a fraction of the original RC helis) and need no skill to fly.

But they do need common-sense – and sadly, that’s a rare commodity.

Look no further than the issues around increasingly powerful laser pointers.

Is the instance of morons who think it is a ‘Good idea’ to park themselves near an airport rare to nil?

Sadly, looking at the news and incident reports, anything but!

The same people can go out and buy any drone they like, and fly it where they like.

I could waffle on about ‘Why we can’t have nice things”.

I could list many items I am not allowed to buy, or even OWN for that matter, having been restricted by legislation in recent years.

I could probably even point out that relatively responsible (such as me) are restricted by the law, while criminals care not one jot about the law, and carry on unaffected, fairly safe in the knowledge that they will not be caught.

That’s not my imagination or an unjustified claim. Look at gun crime for example, or even vehicle excise duty evasion, now growing even though it should be easier to catch offenders by number plate recognition, as opposed to eyeballing ‘tax discs’.

I can’t afford a decent drone, so this has no impact on me now.

But it’s just such a shame that what should be both a fun recreational item AND a superb tool for serious users, has become demonised and targeted by legislation that is really more ‘knee-jerk’ (to keep uneducated members of the public appeased) than effective regulation.

See details here: Police to be given powers to ground drones in UK crackdown

There’s also a clear media trend – maybe intentional, maybe not – to ‘talk up’ stories about civil incidents involving passenger aircraft.

This usually comprises a story about a ‘ near miss’ involving a drone a few feet from the aircraft, and reports of drones being spotted by aircrew, often at extreme distance, and so far (despite the number of claims/reports) no actual collisions, or even video to support the stories.

There’s been more evidence of UFOs near aircraft than drones.

That’s not to be misrepresented as my wanting to see such an event, but evidence and fact would be better.

As it is, these sighting have about as much credibility as UFO sightings, which aircrew generally stopped reporting once their bosses began to drop their names off the promotion ladder.

Reading the media, one could be forgiven for thinking that a drone sighting involved something more like…

Predator And Hellfire

Predator And Hellfire

Than this…



I’m just having a bit of a waffle, since I’ve largely avoided throwing anything into this particular pie.

But most of the so-called ‘power’ are largely contained in existing CAA rules, and sadly, from comments that can be found in other forums, those currently ignoring those are unlikely to change their habits, especially as they can disappear long before any police with ‘powers’ can arrive.

Fly safe if you’re lucky enough to get a serious drone for Christmas.

28/11/2017 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

UAV flights in Scotland 2003-2013

I received an odd nudge to go look at Hansard for July 18, 2013, “You might see something interesting.”

Being a glutton for punishment, I duly trawled through a number of pages, fought off the urge to fall asleep, then came across a question on UAVs, which I guess was where I was supposed to look.

The question was asked of the UK, but this includes Scotland, so we got our little bit of info from the same pot:

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham of 15 May 2013, Official Report, column 221W, on unmanned aerial vehicles, on how many occasions flights of unmanned aerial vehicles have taken place in each of his Department’s reserved airspace areas within the UK in each of the last 10 years; what the purpose of each such flight was; and what type of unmanned aerial vehicle was flown on each such occasion. [R] [166283]

The reply was fairly comprehensive, as follows (I’ve highlighted the relevant line):

Mr Robathan: Available information on the number and location of flights of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), either on the military register or operating under a military flight test permit, in each of the last 10 years, is provided in the following table:

UAV type Number of flights Location Purpose
2003-06 Phoenix (1) (1) (1)
2004 Buster (2) Larkhill Trials
2006 Scan Eagle 22 Hebrides Range Capability Demonstration
2009 Desert Hawk III 126 Salisbury Plain Trials and Training
2010 Desert Hawk III 184 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training and conversion to Role
Watchkeeper 11 West Wales Airport Trials
2011 Desert Hawk III 564 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 83 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 3 Thorney Island Training
2012 Desert Hawk III 1,180 Salisbury Plain Training
Watchkeeper 129 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 11 Thorney Island Training
Scan Eagle 5 South Coast Exercise Area Trials
2013 Desert Hawk III 555 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 6 West Wales Airport French Army Training
Watchkeeper 77 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Black Hornet (3)n/a Lydd Camp, Lossiemouth, Salisbury Plain(4) Training

(1) The Phoenix Unmanned Air System, which retired from service in 2006, was flown in UK airspace. Records of the number, location and purpose of Phoenix sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (2) Records of the number of Buster sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (3) Because of the way Black Hornet is used the number of sorties and flying hours are not recorded. (4) The locations identified are the primary areas in which Black Hornet has been operated. Because of the weight and size of the air vehicle and the height at which it operates, under Military Aviation Authority regulations there is no requirement to limit flights to segregated airspace.

Via House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 18 July 2013 (pt 0007)

Of 2,948 recorded flights (certain types were not recorded) , only 22 took place on the Hebrides Range, and those were class as Capability Demonstration flights.


The UAV type is given as the Boeing ScanEagle (there is no space in the name, incorrectly shown in the Hansard table). The Royal Navy received its first unmanned ‘eye in the sky’ in a £30 million contract with Boeing to supply the ScanEagle reconnaissance aircraft. Built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing Defence UK Limited, the ScanEagle is the first maritime-specific unmanned air system capability to be delivered in support of naval operations. The pilotless plane has been used by the US Navy over the past decade and has been trialled by the Royal Navy, aboard frigate HMS Sutherland back in 2006.

ScanEagle has a wingspan of just over 3 metres (10 ft), a weight of 22 kg (48 lb), and is launched from a pneumatic catapult.

ScanEagle Launch

ScanEagle Launch – Boeing image via MoD web site

The UAV flies at about 60 knots and is piloted by a specialist team on board the ship who plan its missions, control its flights, and monitor and analyse the information it gathers using its sensors, which includes a video or infra-red camera. Data is transmitted to the team, including real-time high-resolution images, via a satellite link.


ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

It can remain airborne some 15 to 18 hours at distances of more than 70 miles from the mother ship. Boeing information on their web site indicates that later designs will substantially increase these figures.


ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

Once the mission has been completed, the UAV returns to the ship where it is captured by being flown into a cable hung vertically from an extendible arm, and is caught by hooks located at the end of each wing. It is then grappled by a recovery device and lifted on board.

ScanEagle Recovery

ScanEagle Recovery – Boeing image via MoD web site

06/09/2013 Posted by | Aviation, military, Naval, Surveillance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

South Uist missile range may host civilian drone testing

Quadrotor droneThere was much speculation and angst during 2009, as the future of the South Uist Missile Range swung from imminent closure to continued service’.

Closure of the range, which includes radar and tracking facilities on the remote island of Hirta within St Kilda, had seemed certain when first announced in June of 2009, but after much protest and representation, was turned around by September of the same year.

Shortly after this, there was a call for drones to be tested on the range, but not much else was heard after that.

Now, at the start of 2011, the growth in civilian drones has led to the range being proposed as a test facility for such devices.

Development of such drones, particularly in the form of lightweight quadrotors, or quadrocopters, has been both rapid and significant in that time. Previously, such aerial craft were generally created using ordinary radio-controlled helicopter, but this had the disadvantage of requiring a skilled pilot to control them, constant observation and control (or they would fall out of the sky), and they were heavy, both in their own construction, and in the cameras and other equipment they carried. The alternative of autonomous, or semi-autonomous, drones was then still an expensive alternative. £40,000 plus was still the norm only a couple of years or so ago.

However, by using electrically powered quadrotor designs, utilising tough and lightweight plastics, powered by miniature, high-efficiency motors, and lithium battery technology, these aircraft have fallen dramatically in price and size, while performance has grown.

Coupled with a similar fall in size, weight, and price of digital imaging systems, and the ability to stream images as data, the observational capabilities of such craft has also grown dramatically.

Finally, as computing power has increased, they have been made autonomous at very low cost, and can be programmed by an operator to fly a mission/route, retrieve images, then return to base without human intervention, thanks to GPS (Global Position System). Even without such sophistication, anyone can fly such a device now, as they can easily be made semi-autonomous, looking after their own stability, while the operator only has to worry about setting desired course, height, and speed. If the operator get it wrong, and asks the craft to crash (or becomes disoriented and loses control), it will override their request, take over, and avoid obstacles using sensors, depending on the level of its sophistication.

The technology moved so fast in the past year or two, that many devices were being flown illegally by unwitting users, and the police found their new toys grounded by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) while legislation was brought up to date, and regulations introduced to make flights of such craft illegal in proximity to humans.

I was in almost on the ‘ground floor’ of radio-controlled helicopters, and they were heavy, expensive, and demanding of skill to fly.

At its most basic (ignoring those without proper control), for £40 I can buy something that will fly ‘out-of-the-box’, maybe even have a gyro to stabilise it, needs little skill, and will not explode into a pile of scrap if I let it fall out of the sky – and is almost silent.

Spend ten times as much (or more), and I can buy a basic ‘real’ model that will stunt-fly and demand proper control, and will also explode into pieces if I do allow it to crash.

But, go down to around £300, and I can have an AR.Drone – and things just get silly:

09/02/2011 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, military | , , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: