UK cities to test drones

29th November 2017 Jonathan Andrews

A new drone challenge has been launched in the UK that will work with five cities to explore if and how drone technology could be used to support local needs.

The Flying High Challenge, run by innovation foundation Nesta together with Innovate UK, will consider how drones could assist cities with their emergency services, buildings maintenance, and traffic, environmental and pollution monitoring.

“In order to fulfil these activities, drone systems will rely heavily on and contribute significantly to a wide range of technologies from data services, connected infrastructure and autonomous systems to advanced mapping, route planning and transport and traffic management,” Deran Thomas Garabedian, Senior Advisor at Nesta, told Cities Today.

Garabedian said that the social and economic benefits of drones will only be realised when cities, public services users, business, industry and regulators collaborate to unlock the technology’s potential.

“By exploring uses with cities and how practically they would like to shape the integration of this technology, UK firms across the drone landscape–from platform and application developers to imaging and sensors manufacturers to autonomy and systems integrators–will have real-world situations through which to tailor their offerings,” he added.

The challenge’s launch comes a few days after the UK announced new laws to be applied to drones and their operation.

Baroness Sugg, the Aviation Minister, said: “These new laws strike a balance to allow the vast majority of drone users to continue flying safely and responsibly, while also paving the way for drone technology to revolutionise businesses and public services.”

The challenge’s open call for interested cities will begin on 4 December with the participating cities due to be announced in early 2018. Two subsequent phases will focus on the development of technology culminating in large-scale, live, real-world demonstrations of integrated drone systems.

UK cities, local authorities, combined authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) or similar local government entities can register their interest to take part at

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