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Andrew's Tips: Identifying Bagpipe Drone Valves

By Andrew T. Lenz, Jr., Santa Cruz, California, ©2001-2010

Guide to Recognizing Brands of Drone Valves

This page is intended to provide both a bit of history of and a guide to drone valves (also called "drone plugs" or "drone regulators" or even "piping plugs") for the Great Highland Bagpipe.

The information provided is accurate to the best of my knowledge. If you have any suggestions or facts to add, feel free to contact me. There may be more makers out there, I'll gladly add them as information is provided. If you'd like to send me an image, please contact me in advance.

Drone Valves

Drone valves are placed at the base of the drone stock to help regulate air through the drones. Or if the piper is utilitizing a hose moisture trap, the drone valves can be in-line. The intent is to stabilize changes in bag pressure with regard to the drone reeds, so the piper has steadier sound, easier starts and crisper stops. Volume is reduced slightly.

Most of these are certainly most practical with a zipper or clamp-back bag—one does not want to have tie-in a bag repeatedly to position them—however, some allow insertion through the drone stock.

Contrary to the assumptions of many, drone valves are not a new invention, having been employed by the early 19th century and perhaps even earlier.

According to Scott Nicholson of Smart Drone Bagpipe Industries, the modern drone valve was originally designed by Geoff Neve in the early 1980s. (Geoff Neve was once the pipe major of The St. Marys Band Club Pipes & Drums of Sydney, Australia.)

On the other hand, Maurice Chisnall of Hastings, New Zealand says that Bill Menzies (Pipe Major of The City of Hastings Pipe Band) first invented drone valves and Bill still has them in his pipes. His are non-returnable petrol pump valves moulded between two pieces of plastic pipe.

McDonald-made Pressure Regulators
Introduced: Before 1840
Availability: No.

The image to the left shows a drone regulator made by Donald McDonald (a bagpipe maker) who died in 1840. The regulator was made from the same billet of wood as the accompanying stock so was turned at the same time and was not added at some later point in time.

Picture provided courtesy Charley Kron, used with permission. Addition images of this particular set of pipes can be viewed on a dedicated page on the C.E. Kron website.

GlenAlan Drone Valves
Bagpipe Services Australia.
Introduced: 1996 or so.
Availability: Newer version available.

Hand machined of black engineering plastic, contains a rubber internal valve. Shut off pressure is adjusted via the elastic tension loop and rubber tension stop.

Spawning the modern commercial interest in drone valves, this concept was originally designed by a student of PM Robert Pearce, who was later given complete rights.

Minor modifictions were made over the years. In 2006, the design was changed to three holes versus four. (See entry below.)


Photo courtesy PM Robert Pearce.

shepherd tone enhancers Shepherd Tone Enhancers*
R.T. Shepherd Co. of Scotland.
Introduced: Late Summer 2000
Availability: Yes.

Made of black plastic. These devices contain desiccant beads to absorb moisture.


Picture provided courtesy Chris Hamilton, ToneCzar

*Valve Donor: Eric Mrozek of Gardena, CA.

McCallum Drone Valves

McCallum Drone Valves
Introduced: 2001
Availability: Yes.

These devices also contain a desiccant to absorb moisture. These are most practical with a zipper or clamp bag.

Website: n/a

Picture provided courtesy Janet Fraser.

Ash Drone valves Ash Plugs*
Alan Ash of Canada.
Introduced: 2001
Availability: Yes.

These are modeled after the McCallum valves, but have some design differences and retail at a much lower price than the McCallums. These will work with the Ross systems, as their size allows them to fit inside the tubes.

Website: n/a

Picture provided courtesy Jim Hudgins, Aberdeen Bagpipe Supply.

*Valve Donor: Eric Mrozek of Gardena, CA.


ToneMaster Drone Valves ToneMaster™ High Performance Drone Valves
Ayrshire Bagpipe Company.
Introduced: 2001.
Availability: Yes.
Price: £21.

Variation of other designs. Plastic, three vent holes, adjustable tension using an elastic cord.

Website: Ayrshire Bagpipe Company

Campbell Drone Regulators
Ken Campbell.
Introduced: 2002
Availability: Yes.

This is the first drone valve that can be inserted down into the drone stock from outside the bag. (And removed in the same manner.) Practical for those without an easy internal access bag.

Website: n/a

Picture provided courtesy Chris Hamilton, ToneCzar

Smart Drone Valve Smart-Valves
Scott Nicholson of Smart-Drone Bagpipe Industries.
Introduced: May 2002
Availability: Yes, by e-mail.

Injection molded blue plastic, these retail for US$20.00 (AUD$35.00) per set. (As of Summer 2010.)

Website: [no longer functional]

e-mail: maccrimmon [at]

Picture provided courtesy of Scott Nicholson

Hylands In-Line Drone Valves*
Inventor/Manufacturer: Nigel Hylands and co-developer Ian Lyons, both of Melbourne, Australia
Introduced: March 2004
Availability: Yes, only through retailers.
Available through Lyons Bagpipes & Highland Supplies for Australia and New Zealand residents. These sell for approximately US$50.00 per set.

These valves fit in-line on most hose moisture control systems. Strength of the valve is adjustable via an hex screw located on the side of the valve collar (clockwise tightens).


*Valve Donor: Lyons Bagpipes.

Highland Reeds Quick Stop Drone Valves*
Maker: Bruce Hitchings
Introduced: 2004/2005?
Availability: Yes.
These sell for approximately £15 (US$26) per set.

Yellow plastic body, ribbed side for hemping to install into dron stock, black rubber O-rings for securing to optional hose system. Screw adjustment for shut off pressure.


*Valve Donor: Bruce Hitchings.

GlenAlan Drone Valves - Mark II*
Bagpipe Services Australia.
Introduced: 2006.
Availability: Yes.
These retail for approximately US$37 (AUD$50.00) per set. (As of 2006.)

Same as earlier versions in construction, but the number of openings changed to three holes versus four to improve performance.


*Valve Donor: PM Robert Pearce.

(Need Image)
?? Drone Valves
Geoff McBean.
Introduced: 2005/6?.
Availability: Yes.

Like the Campbell Regulators, these fit into stock from the exterior of the bag via a tool. Valves contain a ball bearing valve.

Unique vinyl tubing "tail" extends into the bag with the claim of preventing drone harmonics from entering the bag. Valve at end of "tail" can be altered to control the amount of airflow to drones.

Not intended for synthetic bags when hoses to drones are installed.

Individually hand made.

Website: unknown

Geoff McBean
57 Skyeline Drive
Gisbourne, Victoria, Australia


K-Valve Drone Valves*
Russ Kilpatrick.
Introduced: 2006.
Availability: Yes.
These retail for approximately US$28 per set.

Similar to other valve designs, but integrates an finger-manipulatable tension adjustment screw as well as large air passage openings.


*Valve Donor: Russ Kilpatrick.

Please contact me if you have any comments or suggestions regarding this page.

This page last updated on Saturday, September 25, 2010.
Page first added to the site on May 18, 2001 as part of the Drone Reed Identification page.