Aerospace & Defence

165-mile drone ‘superhighway’ between Midlands and Southeast

29th March 2022
Paige West

Plans are in place to build the world’s largest and longest network of drone ‘superhighways’ which would link towns and cities across the UK.

Despite drawing attention to privacy concerns, drones are being utilised by many industries, including agriculture, film, and emergency response, proving to be incredibly useful. AI developments have helped drones to accelerate and as technology continues to advance, drone applications and capabilities will only improve.

Project Skyway, a UK consortium led by UTM (Unified Traffic Management) software provider Altitude Angel, plans to connect airspace above cities including Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby via a 165-mile drone ‘superhighway’.

Initially connecting the Midlands with the Southeast and those along the UK’s south coast, Project Skyway will enable businesses to develop and grow through the commercialisation of new and innovative drone-based products, processes, and services.

The consortium has already submitted the plans and is waiting for approval in the next couple of weeks.

Richard Parker, Altitude Angel, CEO and Founder said: “This is the most ambitious transport project proposed for the country since the advent of the railway network in the 18th century. Britain is at the forefront of a second transport revolution. Drones have the potential to transport goods in a way our ancestors could never have imagined but would have surely understood. Britain can lead the world in these innovative and life-saving technologies, we have the skills and ambition to open our skies to safe and secure drone and air-taxi flights.

“With the government’s support, using this technology as its foundation, we can create networks spanning the length and breadth of Britain, a super-highway-network-in-the-sky, providing a critical digital infrastructure which will, in-turn, enable the world’s first truly national drone economy.”

If the plans are approved there is an option to extend the ‘superhighway’ to Southampton and Ipswich.

Altitude Angels has stated that, ‘unlike existing drone corridors or research facilities which restrict access to operators by imposing punitive financial barriers to fly, the superhighway will be able to support fully automated drone flights beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) from any drone company which completes a series of basic technical integrations which, crucially, don’t require specialist hardware on-board the drone.’

In September 2020, the company announced the ‘Arrow Drone Zone’ – the world’s first commercial drone corridor, allowing automated drones and general aviation to co-exist in a real-world environment. Project Skyway will utilise Detect and Avoid (DAA) technology developed in the Arrow Drone Zone, in combination with Unified Traffic Management (UTM) software-as-a-service, to enable greater awareness of manned and unmanned traffic. The UTM will enable flight requests, approvals, deconfliction and provide a single-source-point-of-truth for all traffic.

The urban air mobility market is forecasted to reach $12.7bn, and $1.5 trillion in the next 20 years and the ‘superhighway’ network could help unlock this huge potential.

Once the initial UK highway is established, Altitude Angel has said it will make the technology available to allow any organisation, airport, town, or city in the UK or beyond, which wants to establish and operate a ‘superhighway’ to do so quickly, easily, and cost-effectively through a simple licensing agreement.

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