Challenge Skyway World’s Largest Drone Superhighway

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UK Government Officially Announces World’s Largest Drone Superhighway

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

Today at the Farnborough Air Show, the UK government officially announced its Project Skyway, the largest and longest network of drone superhighways in the world.

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The drone superhighway will connect cities and towns across the country, enabled by a consortium led by UTM (Unified Traffic Management) solution provider Altitude Angel, alongside BT, EE, and various UK tech start-ups. Over the course of the next two years, this group will develop 165 miles of drone superhighways linking airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby.

Proposed as part of the Department for Business, Energy & Strategy (BEIS) InnovateUK programme, the Skyway superhighway network will leverage the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles for the advancement of the urban air mobility industry.

“The capability we are deploying and proving through Skyway can revolutionize the way we transport goods and travel in a way not experienced since the advent of the railways in the 18th century: the last ‘transport revolution’. The ARROW® technology we are building here is transformative – it is the basis of Skyway and the only scalable, viable mechanism to start integration of drones into our everyday lives, safely and fairly, ensuring that airspace can remain open, and crewed and uncrewed aviation from any party can safely coexist,” said Altitude Angel CEO and founder Richard Parker. “Skyway gives us not just the opportunity to ‘level up’ access to green transportation across Britain, but we can benefit first and export it globally. We are therefore thrilled to be flying the flag on the global stage for UK Plc.”

“The social and economic unlock potential of drones is immense and requires close industry collaboration to fully these opportunities in a safe and responsible way. It’s an exciting time to be part of such a powerful consortium. Project Skyway will be crucial to showcase how the UK can not only lead the creation of new jobs and public services, but form the backbone of how we integrate drones into our daily lives,” said BT’s Director of Drones, Dave Pankhurst. “Cellular connectivity, and a secure, resilient 4G and 5G mobile network, will continue to enable the rapid growth of the drone market. Through our EE network, BT is providing the UK’s largest and most reliable network to Project Skyway, to keep drones connected to ARROW® so they can receive greater situational awareness and tactical collision avoidance instructions from the autopilot system, and stream key video feeds such as search and rescue footage back to control rooms.”

“The Skyway project is an important step in the commercial scale-up of BVLOS UAS operations which will enable high-density UAS operations between key hubs along dedicated corridors,” said Skyports Head of Technology Jef Geudens. “As experienced Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operators, with thousands of hours of flight experience across the UK’s skies, Skyports’ role on the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a drone superhighway through integration with technology systems and extensive test flights .”

“Today’s announcement, which includes a flight route from Reading as one part of the world’s largest and longest network of drone superhighways, is excellent news for the town,” said Councilor Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Councilor for Climate Strategy and Transport. “Reading has always been at the forefront of technological advances and has long had a reputation for unrivaled connectivity and as the center of innovative IT and technology. I’m also pleased that this ambitious project is being spearheaded by a Reading based company.

“This project will put Reading at the forefront of an initiative which has huge potential. As a Council, we strive to ensure our town’s economic growth goes hand-in-hand with achieving our climate goals. The potential access to ‘green’ transportation here complements our own strides towards zero carbon, as well as unlocking the economic potential of harnessing this new technology,” Councilor Page continued.

Skyway partners will put in place a ground-based, networked DAA solution building on existing infrastructure where possible, connected to Altitude Angel’s global UTM system, which brings together data from multiple sources in real-time to form a moving map of the low-altitude sky. This will enable organizations within the towns and cities along the superhighways to access automated drone services with the push of a button, safely operated alongside other aircraft.

Current laws require drones to be operated by a human pilot, except in a small number of cases typically involving a flight ban to other aircraft. This limitation will be removed with Skyway, allowing any drone manufacturer to connect a drone’s guidance and communication systems into a virtual superhighway system that handles the safe guidance of drones to their destinations via a software integration.

This is possible due to Skyway’s reliance on an advanced ground-based sensor network rather than onboard sensors. This network processes aerial traffic in real time, used to provide drones with guidance. This frees drones from having to add a sensor to their payload, which often reduces flight range or efficiency. Skyway gives drones access to higher resolution data from multiple sensors at once.

Read more about Altitude Angel:

Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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