Revolutionary technology will enable automated ‘pilotless’ drones to be flown beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS).
London, UK:The UK government has today announced it has given the go-ahead to for the world’s largest and longest network of drone superhighways to be built in the UK. The drone superhighway will link cities and towns throughout the midlands to the southeast of the country, with the option to expand the corridor to any other locations in the country.
This ambitious new transport capability will be achieved thanks to a consortium led by Reading-based UTM (Unified Traffic Management) solution provider, Altitude Angel, alongside BT, supplying expertise and connectivity through its mobile network, EE, and a number of UK tech start-ups. Together, the group will build and develop 165 miles (265km) of ‘drone superhighways’ connecting airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby over the next two years.
The plans for the superhighway, submitted under the moniker ‘Project Skyway’, were proposed as part of the Department for Business, Energy & Strategy (BEIS) InnovateUK programme which aims to support business growth through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes, and services.
The government will officially announce the project at Farnborough Air Show on Monday, 18 July.
The Skyway superhighway network will help unlock the huge potential offered by unmanned aerial vehicles and be a catalyst to enable growth in the urban air mobility industry.
Richard Parker, Altitude Angel, CEO 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 uncrewed aviation from any party can safely coexist.
“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.”
Skyway partners will collaborate to deploy a ground-based, networked DAA solution, where possible on existing infrastructure, which is hooked up to Altitude Angel’s global UTM system, which ‘stitches’ data from multiple sources together in real-time to create an ultra-high-resolution moving map of the low-altitude sky.
Towns and cities along the superhighways and the businesses, and organisations within them will be able to benefit from automated drones at just the touch of a button: all flown safely and alongside other aviation.
What will Skyway achieve? Drones today cannot be flown without a human pilot, except in rare circumstances usually involving a flight ban to other aircraft. The power of drones to transform lives and revolutionise business is inhibited by this situation since every drone requires a human pilot, and Skyway will obliterate the obstacle by enabling any drone manufacturer to connect a drone’s guidance and communication systems into a virtual superhighway system which takes care of guiding drones safely through ‘corridors’, onward to their destinations, using only a software integration.
Simply put, this system will ensure any company can safely get airborne and build a scalable drone solution to benefit society, businesses, and industry, on level and fair terms, accessible to everyone.
This innovation is possible because Skyway doesn’t rely on drones carrying specific onboard sensors to ‘see’ other aerial traffic: instead, it proposes to put higher-power, better sensors from multiple manufacturers on the ground, along a sensor network, which in turn is then processed in real-time to provide guidance. This means drones don’t need to compromise payload, range or efficiency and can ‘tap into’ even higher resolution data, from multiple sensors, from the ground-based network.
Project Skyway is an ambitious plan to put Britain once again at the forefront of a transport revolution the likes of which it has not seen since the advent of the steam railway in the 18th century.
Then, short lengths of track sprang up around the country allowing steam-powered locomotives to take coal from northern mines or wool and cotton from mill towns to near-by docks to be shipped around the world. But within just a few years those independent miles of track were part of a railway network which spanned the nation, allowing goods and people to travel distances in times hitherto unheard of. This transport revolution and the efficiencies it brought was key in Britain showing itself as an industrial powerhouse on a global scale for the next century.
Two centuries on, Britain is on the point of another transport revolution. Drones shave the potential to transport in a way our ancestors could never have imagined, but would have surely understood. Just as trains reduced transport times from days to hours, drones will reduce them from hours to minutes, using energy from renewable sources. This will allow efficient and timely inspection of roads and railways, airport, and port operators to review infrastructure without dangerous or costly closures and provide lanes 'which will enable delivery drones operated by the likes of DHL, Amazon, and FedEx.
Connected Places Catapult
BT Group Plc
Reading Borough Council
Oxfordshire County Council
Coventry County Council
About Altitude Angel:
Altitude Angel is an award-winning provider of UTM (Unified Traffic Management) software, enabling those planning to operate, or develop UTM/U-Space solutions, to quickly integrate robust data and services with minimum effort.
From a consistent, well-documented and standards-based platform, drone manufacturers such as DJI and cutting-edge software developers around the world use our Developer Platform to obtain rich, relevant, and local geofencing data, exchange and share flight plans, de-conflict their own flights in real-time and interface with national flight authorisation systems. A growing portfolio of enhanced capabilities help our customers to comply with current and future regulations and interface with changing national systems with only minimal effort.
Altitude Angel’s first party solutions also power some of the world’s leading ANSPs, aviation authorities and Enterprises, including LVNL (Netherlands) and Avinor (Norway), empowering them with new capabilities to safely manage and integrate drone traffic into national operations.
Today, Altitude Angel’s market-defining technology is providing a critical, enabling service on which the future of UTM, especially in controlled airspace, will be built across the globe.
By unlocking the potential of drones and helping national aviation authorities, ANSPs, developers and enterprise organisations, Altitude Angel is establishing new services to support the growth in the drone industry.
Altitude Angel was founded by Richard Parker in 2014 and is headquartered in Reading, UK.
BT Group is the UK’s leading provider of fixed and mobile telecommunications and related secure digital products, solutions and services. We also provide managed telecommunications, security and network and IT infrastructure services to customers across 180 countries.
BT Group consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer serves individuals and families in the UK; Enterprise and Global are our UK and international business-focused units respectively; Openreach is an independently governed, wholly owned subsidiary, which wholesales fixed access infrastructure services to its customers - over 650 communication providers across the UK.
For the year ended 31 March 2022, BT Group’s reported revenue was £20,850m with reported profit before taxation of £1,963m.
British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.