The UK wants to host a "drone highway"

The UK government has just announced the construction of the world’s longest and largest drone “superhighway” in what could be a major shock to logistics and delivery drivers around the world.

The 164-mile highway, dubbed the “Skyway”, will link cities such as Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby, and is expected to be completed within the next two years.

The project will be led by Reading-based tech firm UTM (Unified Traffic Management) and software vendor Altitude Angel, alongside BT, EE and “a number of UK tech start-ups”.

How will it work?

The consortium behind the project said that while drones currently “cannot be flown without a human pilot, except in rare circumstances,” the new highway will remove this obstacle “by enabling any drone manufacturer to control a drone’s guidance and communication systems.” to a virtual highway system that allows for the safe guidance of drones through ‘corridors’, further to their destination, with only a software integration”.

The consortium said this innovation is possible because Skyway does not rely on drones that carry specific sensors on board to “see” other air traffic, but instead proposes to place “higher, better sensors” from multiple 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 have to compromise on payload, range or efficiency and can ‘tap’ with even higher resolution data, from multiple sensors, from the ground network.

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The announcement of the superhighway 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 that deliver medical supplies.

The package was announced by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng at the Farnborough International Airshow.

“The social and economic potential of drones is enormous and requires close industry collaboration to fully exploit these opportunities in a safe and responsible manner,” said Dave Pankhurst, BT Director of Drones. “It is an exciting time to be part of such a powerful consortium”.

He added: “Project Skyway will be crucial in showing how the UK can not only lead the way in creating new jobs and public services, but also be the backbone of how we integrate drones into our daily lives” .

But it’s not just the UK that is seeing more and more drone deployments. Walmart is expanding its drone delivery service to 34 locations in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia, potentially serving 4 million homes in a partnership with DroneUp.

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