West Midlands flying high with UK drone technology trial

The West Midlands has been named as one of just five UK locations chosen to explore the future use of drone technology following a successful bid to the Flying High Challenge.

West Midlands Combined Authority spearheaded the submission for the region to be one of the first places in the country to design ways for drone technology to support local needs,

The bid beat off competition from more than a third of UK cities to win a place on the scheme, run by Nesta's Challenge Prize Centre in partnership with Innovate UK.

Now the region will work alongside Bradford, London, Preston and Southampton with the Flying High team over the next five months to look at how they could use drones in their communities. From using the vehicles to support public services to the commercial opportunities that might exist, they’ll explore public attitudes, environmental impact, logistics and safety of drones operating in complex urban environments. Cllr Roger Lawrence, WMCA lead member for transport, said:

“Positioned as we are in the West Midlands as a large region and strategic centre, we can offer a uniquely diverse consortium for this trial.

“We already have a strong regional stake in unmanned aerial vehicle technology surrounding the world class ‘UK City of Culture 2021’ and Commonwealth Games events.

“Current innovative research and development across the region offers other potential areas of synergy with Flying High, including a cutting-edge testbed for connected and autonomous vehicles.”

The region’s 2.8 million residents are spread throughout the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, the Black Country with its industrial heritage and major regeneration ambitions, and the diverse surrounding countryside. Nishita Dewan, Programme Lead for the Flying High Challenge, said:

“The entries to the Flying High Challenge showed the huge appetite from cities across the UK to develop models for drones that work for their people and communities.

“We saw diverse and creative uses for drones such as boosting wi-fi and helping find lost children at the seaside, to the support for key public services such as delivering AEDs and inspecting critical infrastructure.

“Cities represent an important medium, through which we can understand the public’s needs, both for Flying High and our partners, BEIS, CAA and the DfT. We want to co-create a solution that understands the needs of local people and the future city they want to live in.

“In the subsequent phases of the Flying High Challenge, the five cities that have been selected will become testbeds for future demonstrations.”


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