Plans for the UK’s first nationwide drone superhighway, dubbed ‘Project Skyway’, have received a major boost after receiving a £5 million investment from BT.
The Skyway project heralds the next generation of aviation by creating a 165-mile drone corridor over Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby. It is expected to become the largest and longest network of drone highways in the world.
The project is led by Altitude Angel, a provider of UTM (United Traffic Management) solutions based in Reading.
“This is the most ambitious transportation project proposed for the country since the advent of the rail network in the 18th century,” said Richard Parker, CEO and founder of Altitude Angel. “Britain is at the forefront of the second transport revolution.”
According to Chris Foster, chief operating officer of aerospace technology at Altitude Angel, the highway has many potential uses: “Whether it’s a logistics business, right up to the police and the supply of medical vaccines and blood samples, there’s a real demand to have access to this space air”.
“Technology is transformative”
BT’s £5m investment will go towards developing Altitude Angel’s ARROW® detection and avoidance (DAA) software technology to monitor airspace, helping to prevent collisions with other crewed aircraft.
Mr. Parker highlights the utility of the software: “The ARROW® technology we are building here is transformative – it is the foundation of Skyway and the only scalable, viable mechanism to safely and fairly start integrating drones into our daily lives, ensuring the airspace can remain open and manned aviation and unmanned either side can safely coexist.”
While drones usually need to be piloted by humans, Project Skyway circumvents this hurdle by allowing any drone manufacturer to connect a drone to a virtual highway system. Drones will then be safely guided to their destination along “corridors” using only software integration.
BT will support the development of the Altitude Angel software by providing connectivity and network infrastructure via its EE mobile network.
Dave Pankhurst, BT’s Director of Drones, said: “With our EE network, BT provides the largest and most reliable network in the UK for the Skyway project to have drones connected to ARROW® so they can receive greater situational awareness from ARROW® and tactical collision avoidance instructions. autopilot system and stream key video feeds, such as search and rescue footage, back to the control room.”
The project is set to revolutionize transport and delivery services, comments Pakhurst: “The Skyway project will be crucial in demonstrating how the UK can not only lead the way in creating new jobs and public services, but also underpin the integration of drones into our daily lives. “
Project Skyway is expected to become operational within two years.