TECHNOLOGY

The world’s largest automated drone superhighway is coming to the UK

The announcement comes on the first day of the Farnborough International Airshow (Picture: Getty Images/Westend61)

Resembling drone superhighways in the UK could become a reality within the next two years.

On Monday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled the project as part of a £273 million financing package for the aerospace sector.

The 164-mile Skyway project will link cities and towns, including Cambridge and Rugby.

The announcement comes on the first day of the Farnborough International Airshow.

Solar-powered aircraft, ultra-efficient wings and medical treatment with drones were some of the technologies unveiled to promote low-carbon space innovation, economic growth and jobs announced by Kwarteng.

Drone superhighways in the UK could become a reality within the next two years (Photo: PA)

“By funding the latest green technology, such as solar-powered and hydrogen-powered aircraft, and setting our vision for the burgeoning commercial drone market, we are once again placing the aerospace sector directly at the center of our plans to create jobs and growth of the economy’, says Kwarteng.

Dave Pankhurst, director of drones at BT, told the BBC that Skyway is working with BT to stage trials that have taken place in the UK.

“This drone capability has been around for quite some time, but it is still in its infancy to actually be a part of our society and be a useful application,” he said.

Skyway aims to link the skies over 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 government funding will be dedicated to projects related to ‘integrated aviation systems and new vehicle technologies’, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as drones.

The 164-mile Skyway project connects towns and villages, including Cambridge and Rugby (Photo: Unsplash)

These projects include a plan to use drones to deliver regular mail and medicines to the Isles of Scilly, and to distribute medicines across Scotland, potentially allowing some cancer patients to receive treatment in their local community.

“The integration of drones into our transport system will play a huge role in better connecting communities, from potentially delivering vital NHS treatments in isolated communities to capturing high-quality aerial images for rescue teams,” said Transport Minister Robert Courts.

A Drone Ambition Statement has been prepared 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 could create 650,000 jobs in the sector by 2030.

Public investment, effective regulation, a consultation on enabling 5G-connected drones for commercial use and improving public communications will highlight the potential benefits of commercial drones.

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