Imagine your company wanted to launch a commercial drone into urban airspace and didn’t have to worry about flight restrictions of any kind – ever. And neither did any other company operating in your same area. That’s the idea behind “Skyway,” an initiative launched in the UK earlier this year to create the world’s first drone “superhighway.” As first reported in the online magazine New Atlas, “Skyway” will link together a string of towns in northern England including Oxford and Cambridge into a single drone corridor measuring about 165 miles in length. A UK company, Altitude Ang is leading the initiative, which has already received the approval of UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
Dozens of companies in the area are likely to utilize the corridor to survey roads and ports in the region. Under current regulations, they must apply for permits on a case-by-case basis, after meeting rigorous technical requirements. Once those restrictions are lifted, expectations are that the skies will fill up with drones to an unprecedented degree. “Skyway” plans to make its patented detect-and-avoid technology widely available to all drone operators to avert possible mid-air collisions.
If the drone superhighway proves successful, Altitude will likely seek to extend it to Southampton on the south coast and Ipswich on the east coast, officials say. It also plans to make the technology widely available through a licensing agreement to establish similar corridors around the UK and beyond, New Atlas reported.
Skyway is not Altitude’s first drone corridor initiative. Back in 2020. The company established a 5-mile-long corridor called the Arrow Drone Zone which operated in a similar fashion. At the time, officials said Arrow would test the effectiveness of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) navigation for medical supply delivery, infrastructure surveillance, remote maintenance and rescue missions.
Altitude’s NEW drone corridors dovetail with efforts by other UK entities to pioneer SEVERAL drone delivery initiatives. In May, Royal Mail announced plans to establish 50 drone postal routes for mail delivery to difficult-to-reach communities throughout the UK; most are currently serviced by small manned aircraft and ferries. And Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) will soon begin trialing the world’s first deliveries of chemotherapy drugs by drone. The NHS expects to cut its average drug delivery times from 4 hours to 30 minutes, while drastically reducing the size of its carbon footprint. The NHS says drug delivery flights may be available to cancer patients throughout the UK by early 2023. But it may take another two years before Skyway is formally launched, Altitude officials say.