Plans for a drone superhighway, connecting airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby, can go ahead after the Government approved funding.

Reading-based Altitude Angel led a consortium to apply for funding for the 165-mile Project Skyway which it will now develop over the next two years.  It will be the largest and longest of its kind in the world.

The grant, from the Department for Business, Energy & Strategy (BEIS)’s InnovateUK fund, was announced at the Farnborough Air Show on July 18.

The Skyway superhighway network is expected to unlock huge potential for unmanned aerial vehicles and be a catalyst for growth in the urban air mobility industry.

The consortium behind the project includes BT, its mobile phone subsidiary EE and a number of UK tech start-ups.

Richard Parker, Altitude Angel chief executive 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.

“The Arrow technology we are building here is transformative – it is the basis of Skyway and the only scalable, viable mechanism to start integration of drones into our everyday lives, safely and fairly, ensuring that airspace can remain open, and crewed and un-crewed aviation from any party can safely co-exist.

“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: “The social and economic potential of drones is immense and requires close industry collaboration to fully unlock these opportunities in a safe and responsible way. 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.

“Cellular connectivity, and a secure, resilient 4G and 5G mobile network, will continue to enable the rapid growth of the drone market. Through our EE network, BT is providing the UK’s largest and most reliable network to Project Skyway, to keep drones connected to Arrow so they can receive greater situational awareness and tactical collision avoidance instructions from the autopilot system, and stream key video feeds such as search and rescue footage back to control rooms.”

Commercial drone operators will be able to connect to the system at points along the route which guides them from sensors on the ground.

Altitude Angel has the ability to expand the corridor to any other location in the country.

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