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North-east drone firm diverts skills to create PPE for frontline NHS staff

An Aberdeen headquartered drone manufacturing business has diversified to create more than 78,000 face visors to help protect local NHS workers fighting the Coronavirus pandemic.

Air Control Entech (ACE), based in the city’s Bridge of Don, which designs and manufactures bespoke UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to deliver offshore inspections, has been developing the visors, in addition to its day to day workload, in an effort to support frontline staff at NHS Grampian, as well as local care homes.

The mass production has been supported by The Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) which donated the funds to ACE to purchase an injection moulding machine to increase production to 2,000 a day, with the machine running 16 hours a day.

Kieran Hope, chief operating officer of ACE, had initially started production using the company’s 3D printer technology to design and build the safety visor frames but soon realised that he needed to increase production massively to meet demand.

Kieran said:
“We wanted to do something to help our local frontline NHS staff in the current crisis, so we looked at how we could use our in-house technology and skills to create safety equipment but soon realised that we could only produce small numbers daily.  Now the OGTC has come forward to support our efforts, we’re on course to produce thousands more to help our local healthcare workers.

“We’ve already donated visors directly to care homes, health workers, district nurses, GP surgeries and charities all over the North-east so we can try to help protect these workers that are putting their own lives at risk to care for others in our community.  Now we have the right machinery in place thanks to the OGTC, we’re just going to keep producing and donating visors for as long as it’s needed.”

Rebecca Allison, Asset Integrity Solution Centre Manager at the Oil & Gas Technology Centre said:
“Kieran and the team at Air Control Entech came forward with a great solution to help provide visors for key workers across the region. We were able to donate funding to the company for the purchase of an injection moulding machine which would allow the team to produce 2000 visors a day to help frontline staff to continue to do their jobs safely.

“With the help of the staff here at The OGTC some of the masks have already been delivered and deployed around the area. The power of people, partnerships and technology has allowed us to provide essential visors to those who need them most.

“We have seen many acts of kindness and generosity during this time and wanted to do as much as we could to help. We utilised our network and skills to provide support and this is one of the many ways where we can come together during this time.”

Fellow Aberdeen business, DI Global, an Air Liquide company, also collaborated with ACE to donate materials for the first 500 Perspex shields for the visors.  Other local businesses, including Grampian Packaging Supplies, Cocoa Ooze, LV Shipping and Transport and Valor Group donated cardboard boxes for transport of the visors, whilst volunteers from OGTC have been delivering the visors to local hospitals and care homes.

ACE, which currently has ten members of staff, was founded in 2016 by Mr Hope and was one of the first companies to be supported by the Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC).
The firm, which completed a research and development project with OGTC last year and is moving forward with field trials, mainly operates for clients in the North Sea but is on track to significantly expand its operations globally, as well as its team, in the next 12 months.