Plans are underway for a network of drone ‘superhighways’ to link major towns and cities across the UK.
A consortium, led by Unified Traffic Management (UTM) software provider Altitude Angel, has submitted plans for a 165-mile (265km) route connecting airspace above cities including Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby.
If the plans are approved there is an option to extend the superhighway to Southampton on the south coast and Ipswich on the east coast. A decision on whether to green light the project is expected in the coming weeks.
The blueprint for the superhighway, known as Project Skyway, has been designed to enable businesses to develop and grow through the commercialisation of new and innovative drone-based products, processes, and services.
“This is the most ambitious transport project proposed for the country since the advent of the railway network in the 18th century,” said Richard Parker, CEO and founder, Altitude Angel.
Unlike existing drone corridors or research facilities, which restrict access to operators by imposing punitive financial barriers to fly, the superhighway will reportedly be able to support fully-automated drone flights from any drone company that completes a series of basic technical integrations.
Parker added: “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 superhighway-network-in-the-sky, providing a critical digital infrastructure that will, in-turn, enable the world’s first truly national drone economy.”
The UTM will enable flight requests, approvals, deconfliction and provides a single-source-point-of-truth for all traffic on the Project Skyway corridors through combined manned and unmanned situational awareness. Project Skyway makes this combined air picture available to larger groups of airspace users through existing solution providers, such as those providing existing planning and tracking products to commercial air transport.
Once the initial UK highway is established, Altitude Angel will make the technology available via a licensing agreement, to allow any organisation, airport, town, or to operate a ‘superhighway’.