School dinners by drone set to take off in Scotland

School dinner being placed into a Skyports drone for delivery
(Image credit: Skyports / Argyll Bute Council)

"Eeewwww.... school dinners" the kids might say, but at least they can be impressed with how the food arrived. Drone delivery company Skyports deliver the meals to the remote Lochnell Primary School from the town of Oban, 1.5km (1 mile) away.

The scheme was been piloted in June 2022, with the intention of replacing traditional vehicles – vans, taxis, and ferries – which the BBC noted at the time "can be affected by weather conditions." We'd be surprised if this isn't true for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) too – it certainly affects most of the best camera drones – but operators are optimistic.

"To open up delivery of free school meals to island schools would be really beneficial for them... and we know here school meals impact highly on achievement," said Louise Chisholm, Lochnell Primary School.

From a governmental perspective, the goal here is ultimately to prove drones can cut costs of meal delivery and eliminate the need for on-site kitchens at small island schools while still providing that vital nutrition. The drones used in the trial carried a maximum 1.3kg (3lb) payload, so didn't feed even Lochnell Primary, let alone the 23 islands that fall under the authority's auspices.

Skyports school meal delivery drone takes off

Once loaded with a hot or cold meal the drone takes off (Image credit: Skyports / Argyll Bute Council)

Nevertheless, heads have been turned at the Assist FM Facility Management Awards, Scotland, where the scheme has been shortlisted in the Innovation and Community Focus awards. The winner will be announced on May 18.

From an aviation perspective, the goals of the test were more complex than simple beyond-line-of-sight delivery, however. Flights left from Oban airport, where manned flights operate too, but Tom Eddleston of Oban Airport, on the west of Scotland, said sharing the airspace was "Something we are keen to try and explore," and "there's no real problem from the airport perspective, it's literally just going to be convincing the regulator."

The regulator in question, the UK's CAA (the equivalent of the FAA), still keeps its options open for this kind of scheme, but there is government pressure for a drone superhighway so more of this kind of scheme is likely.

Skyports drone landing in a field on a mat with onlookers in the background

Another Skyports test site (Image credit: Skyports)

Skyports has other active projects around the world. Relatively nearby Skyports operate mail delivery to the island of Orkney for the Royal Mail. Further afield the firm has received sign-off for the development of a 'vertiport' in Dubai and eVTOL in Paris.

The future sounds exciting (and a bit Bladerunner), but if you're still waiting for your family to enjoy drones, perhaps it'd be better to take the first step and try the best drones for beginners or check the best drones for kids right now!

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook