Five cities chosen to pioneer drone operations

Five ‘pioneering’ cities have been selected to design how drone technology could operate in complex city environments to address local needs, as part of the Flying High Challenge.

Run by Nesta and Innovate UK, Bradford, London, Preston, Southampton and the West Midlands will now work with the Flying High team over the next five months to look at how drones could be used in their communities, examining the potential for public service delivery, commercial opportunities and environmental impacts.

Individually, Bradford outlined the huge potential for drones to support delivery of better quality housing and energy efficiency, alongside job growth within the growing tech community. London has experienced initial use of drones for safer infrastructure inspections and helping the capital’s emergency services, but will now actively engage in how this market will develop in future.

Drones have also already been used in Preston in building inspection, fire and rescue services and to assist the Environment Agency. The city will now explore their role in flood management, assisting police helicopters, and upgrading road networks. Working alongside the University of Southampton, Southampton will study port safety, blue light services and offshore logistics.

Meanwhile, the West Midlands, which boasts two international airports, will analyse the use of drones around the world class ‘UK City of Culture 2021’ and Commonwealth Games events.

Nishita Dewan, programme lead for the Flying High Challenge, said: “The entries to the Flying High Challenge showed the huge appetite from cities across the UK to develop models for drones that work for their people and communities. We saw diverse and creative uses for drones such as boosting wi-fi and helping find lost children at the seaside, to the support for key public services such as delivering AEDs and inspecting critical infrastructure.

“Cities represent an important medium, through which we can understand the public’s needs, both for Flying High and our partners, BEIS, CAA and the DfT. We want to co-create a solution that understands the needs of local people and the future city they want to live in. In the subsequent phases of the Flying High Challenge, the five cities that have been selected will become testbeds for future demonstrations.”

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