bt etc hub drone

BT confirms £5m deal to launch the UK’s first drone superhighway

Image credit: bt etc hub

BT has announced a £5m deal with a start-up to create drone corridors across southern and central England that could be used to transport cargo and other supplies.

Traffic management firm Altitude Angel wants to create a drone superhighway that would be the largest and longest network of its kind in the world.

Its Unified Traffic Management (UTM) software has been designed to allow drones to fly safely, without a pilot, over large distances. The deal with BT will accelerate the roll-out of technology which detects and identifies drones to allow them to safely share the airspace with crewed aviation.

It is estimated that the UK’s drone cargo delivery could be worth £45bn by 2030 and enable drones to transform how essential services function – from supporting the emergency services with real-time search and rescue, fast transportation of medical supplies, farming analysis, and architectural planning.

The long-term aim of the project is to connect towns and cities, as well as transport and package delivery hubs across the country using the 165-mile long drone corridor spanning airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby.

Under the deal, BT will provide connectivity, network infrastructure and help to deploy and maintain Altitude Angel’s Arrow tower network.

The financial backing will also allow Altitude Angel to accelerate its plans for the Skyway corridor beyond the planned 165-mile corridor.

Last year, the NHS started trialling a drone delivery system to transport life-saving chemotherapy drugs in remote parts of the UK in under half an hour.

Richard Parker, Altitude Angel CEO, said: “With BT Group, Altitude Angel has a partner which shares its ambition to make automated commercial drone operations at scale in the UK a day-to-day reality.

“Combining our Arrow technology, which allows crewed and uncrewed aircraft to share the same skies, safely and securely, with BT Group’s significant communications infrastructure, we can quickly bring Arrow to the masses. 

“This will provide the UK with the first nationwide drone superhighways, unlocking the potential of this new and innovative technology and revolutionising business operations in countless industries.”

Tom Guy, managing director of BT Group’s Etc hub, said: “At Etc, we support businesses like Altitude Angel, who have game-changing ideas that benefit from BT Group’s scale and our agile approach to growth. This partnership is a natural extension to BT Group’s work building the leading network in the UK, supporting the UTM industry that sits adjacent to our core business.”

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