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Co-op offers airborne ash-scattering service by drone

11 November 2022

Co-op Funeralcare

A drone scatters ashes in a video produced by Co-op Funeralcare

A drone scatters ashes in a video produced by Co-op Funeralcare

GRIEVING relatives are often faced with an apparently impossible request to scatter their loved one’s ashes far out to sea, or at some remote location with a special connection to them.

Now, the Co-op has become the first national funeral provider to offer an airborne ash-scattering service by drone. The service, which is provided though the Co-op’s 800 funeral parlours, is also available to those who arrange the funeral elsewhere. There is even an option to have a video made of the event.

A recent YouGov survey of 2053 adults suggested that cremation was preferred by 80 per cent of families, and that more than one third (35 per cent) chose to scatter the ashes in a location significant to their loved one, from national parks and rivers to beauty spots and beaches.

Co-op Funeralcare’s managing director, Gill Stewart, said: “Our colleagues are dedicated to supporting the bereaved families we serve long after the funeral, and the sky really is the limit now. Cremation has continued to grow at pace as a choice for funerals. We’re always looking at new and innovative ways to help families honour their loved ones.”

There is no explicit legislation on scattering ashes. If it is on land, however, the landowner’s permission is required, and some are not keen to grant it. Scattering in a river or at sea does not need permission, but the Environment Agency, which oversees rivers and coastal waters, offers guidance to protect such locations as fisheries, water-abstraction points, and bathing sites.

A National Trust spokesperson said that, while it did grant permission for the scattering of ashes, the flying of drones was banned over its properties for reasons that included the disturbance of residents, visitors, and livestock; commercial exploitation of footage; and the possiblly inadequate insurance of operators. Any company wishing to fly drones for any commercial purpose would have to apply for permission.

In Scotland, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland asks for the most popular sites, such as summits, to be avoided, because ashes can harm plant life.

The Royal Parks said: “We would prefer that you don’t. These remains contain high levels of minerals and other elements. This, over time, can sterilise the soil and leach into watercourses. This disrupts the delicate natural balance.”

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