BT announces deal to advance UK drone superhighway

The incubation team at the BT Group’s Digital Unit has announced a £5m deal to help mobilise UK airspace for uncrewed aerial vehicles and create pathways for widescale drone usage.

Etc is investing in unified traffic management technology provider, Altitude Angel, to scale the UK drone industry and support development of the country’s drone superhighway, which it claims is set to be the largest and longest network of its kind in the world.

Drone infrastructure

UTM is a software platform and infrastructure designed to allow drones to fly safely, without a pilot, over large distances. The £5m deal will accelerate Altitude Angel’s roll-out of its Arrow technology, which detects and identifies drones, while also enabling drones to share the airspace with crewed aviation safely and securely.

The deal is a key step stone in enabling Altitude Angel to scale its technology to allow long distance drone flights, supporting the potential for faster delivery of essential and non-essential items. BT Group said in a statement that it will also facilitate smart city development plus provide enhanced capabilities for emergency services and the defence community.

It will also enable drones to transform how other essential services function in areas such as medical supplies, farming analysis and architectural planning.

Following the earlier Project Xcelerate, a consortium led by BT Group and Altitude Angel, the relationship has continued to grow under Project Skyway, the largest and longest network of drone superhighways in the world, which is backed by the UK government’s Future Flight programme.

Arrow, developed by Altitude Angel, is the foundation technology on which Project Skyway is being built, creating a 165-mile drone corridor spanning airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby.

Under the terms, BT Group will provide connectivity, network infrastructure and its scalability experience to deploy and maintain Altitude Angel’s Arrow tower network. BT Group will also be the key reseller of Altitude Angel’s software in addition to providing commercial support for drone deliveries in retail and automated, smart drone inspections of critical infrastructure.

The financial backing will allow Altitude Angel to accelerate plans for the Skyway corridor beyond the planned 165-miles, to thousands of miles of Skyway infrastructure connecting towns and cities as well as transport and package delivery hubs, across the country, which in-turn will allow the UK to unlock the multi-£bn drone economy.

“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,” said Richard Parker, CEO and founder, Altitude Angel. “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.



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