ONE of the UK's leading onshore helicopter firms has bought out its venture capital shareholder with help from Clydesdale Bank.

Inverness-based PDG Helicopters, part of the PLM Dollar group, has bought out the loan stock and shares owned by Glasgow-based Maven Capital Partners.

The move was funded by the business and by a £900,000 term loan from the Clydesdale in Inverness.

PDG, which has 35 employees at its Inverness headquarters and also has bases in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Wolverhampton and Dublin, was established in 1995 following a merger between PLM Helicopters and Dollar Helicopters, two of the industry's best-known names.

The group, which has a turnover of £12 million, offers a range of onshore helicopter services including aerial and power line surveys, crop spraying, filming and photography, as well as private and corporate hire.

PDG has invested around £3m in fleet and equipment in the last five years with a particular focus on high- quality broadcast and thermal imagery technology, and has recently provided high-definition aerial filming for several television productions including the BBC's Monty Halls' Great Escape and Channel 4's Hidden Talent.

Jerry Francis, chief executive of PDG Helicopters, said: "The business is going from strength to strength and we're seeing very strong growth in the aerial survey side of the business.

"Our contract with Network Rail requires one of our aircraft to be avail-able with back-up 24/7 to survey and report back on safety issues and potential faults on 20,000 miles of railway line across the UK.

"Carrying out these surveys by air, using highly sophisticated thermal imaging cameras, is a far more efficient and effective way of meeting the client's needs, and our increasing success in attracting this kind of work vindicates our decision to invest so heavily in new technology."