Five locations across the UK have been selected to run projects on the use of a drone in public services.
The project is being run by Innovate UK and Innovation Foundation, Nesta. The two organisations have selected Bradford, London, Preston, Southampton and the West Midlands to carry out the project.
The Flying High Challenge is aimed at showing how drones could be used to deal with urban issues and help to make the UK a leader in the field. Over the next five years, the five cities will run projects to explore the public attitudes, environmental impact, logistics and safety of drones operating in complex urban environments.
Nesta has said each city boasts credentials in areas from aerospace to robotics and autonomous vehicles, and many have unique approaches to public engagement and local economic development. Bradford has a varied landscape with densely populated areas adjoining large open spaces and some of the earliest drone testing happened in this city.
Drones could be used in Bradford to help meet priorities such as job growth in the tech community, improved environmental management, better quality housing, energy efficiency and safe communities.
Nesta said London has the busiest and most heavily regulated airspace in the UK, presenting unique challenges for drone deployment but with a natural flight corridor in the Thames.
The city will look at a range of applications to study how drones could be safely used in the future. Drones have already been used in infrastructure inspections and assisting emergency services.
Preston has been looking at the potential of using drones since 2014 with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) setting up the Civic Drone Centre to bring together local authorities, communities and businesses to look at new solutions.
Drones are already being used in Preston to support the fire service and local Environment Agency. The council is planning to extend this to areas such as upgrading road networks and monitoring air pollution.
Southampton, one of the major port cities in the UK, is keen on using drones for port safety, blue light services and offshore logistics. The city council is working with the University of Southampton, which leads the CASCADE project on the deployment of drones in civil airspace. It is also working with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, and within the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Future Cities project.
West Midlands, encompassing the cities of Birmingham and Coventry, is interested in use cases surrounding UK City of Culture 2021 and Commonwealth Games 2022 events.
From February to June 2018, the Flying High team will work with these cities to explore potential uses of drones, develop visions that shape the future of drones in each city and identify the requirements to sustainably realise these visions.