The British government has given the go-ahead to for the world’s largest and longest network of drone superhighways which will be created in the UK.
And the hi-tech firm behind plans to create a 'skyway' for unmanned, autonomous drones says it could have as much impact as the rail revolution in the 19th Century.
The skyway will link Reading to Coventry Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge cities and there area already plans to expand to other locations in the country.
It has received almost £13m of Government support and forms part of a £273m funding package for the aerospace sector.
The moves were revealed by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng at the Farnborough airshow on Monday.
This project is the brainchild of a consortium led by Reading-based Altitude Angel, alongside BT, and a number of UK tech start-ups including Skyfarer set up by a graduate from Cranfield University.
The group wants to build and develop 165 miles (265km) of ‘drone superhighways’ connecting airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby over the next two years.
Drones are already being used for a number of commercial and medical uses.
A medical drone delivery service carrying supplies between hospitals has already been backed by the UK Space Agency.
Apian, which was founded by NHS staff as part of the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, was launched in 2020.
The Royal Mail announced plans to increase its use of drones for deliveries with the creation of 50 new “postal drone routes” over the next three years.
Richard Parker, Altitude Angel, CEO and founder said: “The capability we are deploying and proving through Skyway can revolutionise the way we transport goods and travel in a way not experienced since the advent of the railways did in the 18th century: the last ‘transport revolution’.
“Skyway gives us not just the opportunity to ‘level up’ access to green transportation across Britain, but we can benefit first and export it globally. We are therefore thrilled to be flying the flag on the global stage for UK Plc.”
Dave Pankhurst, BT’s Director of Drones, said: “It’s an exciting time to be part of such a powerful consortium. Project Skyway will be crucial to showcase how the UK can not only lead the creation of new jobs and public services, but form the backbone of how we integrate drones into our daily lives. "
It is hoped the Skyway will enable any drone manufacturer to connect a drone’s guidance and communication systems into a virtual superhighway system. It will allow the drone to fly safely through special corridors.
Altitude Angel say "Simply put, this system will ensure any company can safely get airborne and build a scalable drone solution to benefit society, businesses, and industry, on level and fair terms, accessible to everyone."
Also receiving funding from the Government is Project HEART (Hydrogen Electric and Automated Regional Transportation) based in Orkney and Bedford it will receive £10 million to explore using aircraft powered by hydrogen or electricity to open up greener regional connectivity across the UK.
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