Looks like drone superhighways in the UK might become a reality within the next two years.
On Monday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng revealed the project as part of a £273 million funding package for the aerospace sector.
The 164-mile Skyway project will connect towns and cities, including Cambridge and Rugby.
The announcement comes on first day of the Farnborough International Airshow.
Solar powered aircraft, ultra-efficient wings and medical treatment carrying drones were some of the technologies unveiled to advance low-carbon aerospace innovation, economic growth and jobs announced by Kwarteng.
‘Through funding for the latest in green technology, such as solar and hydrogen powered aircraft, and setting out our vision for the fast-growing market for commercial drones, we are once again placing the aerospace sector directly at the centre of our plans to deliver jobs and grow the economy,’ said Kwarteng.
Dave Pankhurst, director of drones at BT, told the BBC that Skyway is scaling up trials that have been taking place around the UK in collaboration with BT.
‘This drone capability has existed for quite some time, but is in its infancy in terms of being actually part of our society and being a usable application,’ he said.
Skyway aims to connect the airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby by mid-2024, and will receive more than £12 million.
A total of £105.5 million of the government’s funding will be specifically for projects relating to ‘integrated aviation systems and new vehicle technologies’, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as drones.
These projects include a plan to use drones to provide regular deliveries of mail and medicine to the Isles of Scilly, and to distribute medicines across Scotland, potentially enabling some cancer patients to be treated in their local community.
‘Integrating drones into our transport system will play a huge part in better connecting communities, from potentially delivering vital NHS treatments in isolated communities to capturing high quality aerial imaging for rescue teams,’ said Transport Minister Robert Courts.
A Drone Ambition Statement has been produced in collaboration with the Drone Industry Action Group, outlining how the UK will embed a business environment that supports the development of drone technologies and can deliver 650,000 jobs in the sector by 2030.
Through government investments, effective regulation, a consultation on enabling 5G connected drones for commercial use and improving public communications will help underline the potential benefits of commercial drones.