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UK government is throwing serious money behind drones. The world’s longest and largest drone “superhighway” is now being built by the UK government, which may significantly disrupt the logistics and delivery industries worldwide.
Within the next two years, the 164-mile “Skyway” expressway is expected to be finished. It will connect cities including Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby.
Along with BT, EE, and “a number of UK digital start-ups,” the project will be overseen by Reading-based technology company UTM (Unified Traffic Management) and software provider Altitude Angel.
How will it work?
Although drones “cannot be flown without a human pilot, except in rare circumstances,” according to the consortium behind the project, the new highway will remove this barrier “by enabling any drone manufacturer to connect a drone’s guidance and communication systems to a virtual superhighway system which takes care of guiding drones safely through ‘corridors’, onward to their destinations, using only a software integration.”
According to the consortium, Skyway’s innovation is feasible because it doesn’t rely on drones with particular onboard sensors to “see” other aerial traffic. Instead, Skyway suggests placing “higher-power, better sensors” from a variety of manufacturers on the ground, along a sensor network, which is then processed in real-time to provide guidance.
This apparently means that drones using the highway 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.
The superhighway announcement came as part of a £273m government funding package for the UK’s aerospace sector, earmarked for investment in all types of technology, including solar-powered aircraft, flying taxis, and drones delivering medical supplies.
The package was announced by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng at the Farnborough International Airshow.
According to Dave Pankhurst, director of drones at BT, “the social and economic potential of drones is huge and requires close industry collaboration to properly harness these prospects in a safe and responsible way.” It’s fantastic to be a part of such a potent coalition at this time.
Project Skyway will be essential to illustrate how the UK can not only lead the development of new employment and public services but also serve as the foundation for integrating drones into daily life, the author continued.
But it’s not just the UK that is seeing more and more drone rollouts. Walmart is expanding its drone delivery service to 34 locations across Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, potentially serving 4 million households in a collaboration with DroneUp.