UK funeral homes use drones to scatter ashes of the departed

UK drones cremation ashes

If aerial activity tracks changes in how societies are modifying funeral services, the demand for drone pilots qualified to scatter cremation ashes from on high may soon rise, as developments in the UK seem to suggest.

A limited yet rising number of funeral homes in the UK are providing cremation ash scattering services by drone as an alternative to ground internment. Although less expensive than traditional burials, the aerial option involves more than merely dropping what for loved ones is a particularly sensitive payload over a specified location. A trailing UAV is also typically flown to film dispersal of the dearly departed’s remains, and the hauling craft has to be powerful enough to carry the task out.

“Cremation remains are surprisingly heavy, so it takes a capable drone to act as our carrier,” said Christopher Mace, founder of Aerial Ashes scattering company in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, in a recent report by The North Echo. “Once (the right drone) had been identified, I developed the ash-box with a technical firm.” 

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Mace created the business three years ago after completing his service in the Royal Air Force, during which he piloted helicopters. He said the idea of using drones to scatter cremation ashes of the deceased grew directly from interaction he’d had while piloting military choppers.

“While flying search and rescue helicopters, I was occasionally asked to scatter the ashes of a former airman in the sea as part of a routine training mission,” he said. “It was a lovely way for families to finally lay ashes to rest, and when I started using drones later in my career, I could see there was a way for airborne ashes release to be more accessible.”

He isn’t the only one to have acted on that idea. 

Several UK funeral companies offer similar services, with the aptly named Scattering Ashes offering its lowest-priced $721 dispersal over a selected coastal location, areas it says are easily “accessible and are the most straightforward to arrange.” 

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Like other businesses operating similar missions, both Scattering Ashes and Aerial Ashes do the work of obtaining permission to perform the airborne services over private property or public lands requiring approvals. Those, Scattering Ashes notes, include “woodlands, open countryside, golf courses, football grounds, and racecourses.”

Online evidence seems to suggest the use of drones to scatter cremation ashes is taking hold faster in the UK – and to a more moderate degree, Australia – than in the US, where UAVs have been more in demand for filming funeral services, especially of military personnel. Changing social trends, however, may bring those curves closer into sync.

According to the most recent figures from the UK’s Cremation Society, the current rate of incineration in Britain exceeds 77%, far outstripping traditional burial. The figure in the US in 2020 was 56% ­ – up from less than 30% in 2002 – and set pass 64% in 2025. Amid that growing volume of cremation ashes, funeral homes may also increasingly find themselves needing capable drone pilots to help families say their final, aerial goodbyes to deceased loved ones.

Photo: Aerial Ashes

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