A drone superhighway has been proposed which will link Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby in the biggest transport revolution for centuries.

A consortium, led by Reading-based Altitude Angel, and which includes BT, other private sector businesses as well as local authorities in some of those areas, has bid for cash from Innovate UK’s Future Flight Challenge to create Project Skyway, a 165-mile drone route linking all those centres.

If the funding is approved there is an option to extend the superhighway to Southampton and Ipswich.

As well as commercial uses, the drone superhighway would be used for medical deliveries such as the transfer of time-critical organs and medicines.

Richard Parker, Altitude Angel founder and chief executive, 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.”

The firm, based in The Blade, has already created its own five-mile drone corridor called Arrow Drone Zone to the south of Reading where it has developed detect and avoid (DAA) technology.

By attaching DAA equipment to existing infrastructure such as mobile phone masts, and in collaboration with its Unified Traffic Management (UTM) software which effectively operates as air traffic control for drones, the firm plans to create safe routes in the sky where it says the first 1,000 ft is expected to become congested in the future.

Once Project Skyway is up and running, Altitude Angel will offer licensing arrangements so that similar schemes can be created in other towns and cities.

The full list of members of the consortium is: Altitude Angel, Connected Places Catapult, HeroTech8, BT Group, ARPAS-UK, Reading Borough Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Coventry City Council, Apian, Angorka, Vizgard, Skyfarer Ltd and Skyports.

A decision on the funding bid is expected in late April or early May.

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