165-mile Project Skyway to become the world's longest highway for drones
A stretch of airspace spanning 165 miles (265 km) across England is set to become the world's longest dedicated drone corridor, with the UK government approving plans for the initiative as part of a wider push into next-generation aviation. Called Skyway, the drone superhighway will connect towns and cities, and will initially be used to survey infrastructure such as roads and ports.
The Skyway project will be centered on the town of Reading, and will connect with other towns and cities in the area, including Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes. UK company Altitude Angel is leading the initiative, with the proposal officially approved by UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng at the Farnborough International Airshow on Monday.
Altitude Angel actually caught our eye with an interesting flight program south of Reading back in 2020. Called the Arrow Drone Zone, the project established an 8-mile-long (5-km) unrestricted flight corridor that was open to drones of any kind, so long as they completed a set of basic technical integrations.
The idea was that rather than using closed-off airspace to fly specialized drones approved on an individualized basis, the Arrow Drone Zone could support flights from any drone operator that meets the requirements. The Skyway network will work off a similar premise, and use Altitude Angel's detect-and-avoid technology to prevent mid-air collisions and enable aircraft to fly autonomously beyond line of sight.
The £12-million (US$14-million) Skyway project follows other drone-related developments in the UK in recent months. This includes the Royal Mail's plans to establish 50 routes for drone delivery, and the National Health Service's plans to carry out world-first deliveries of chemotherapy drugs by drone.
According to the UK government statement, the Skyway highway will be used initially to enable drones to "quickly and efficiently survey infrastructure." This will lessen the need for transport system closures and make delivery of goods more efficient. Altitude Angel says there is an option to extend the highway to Southampton on the south coast and Ipswich on the east coast, and it also plans to make the technology widely available through a licensing agreement to establish similar corridors around the UK and beyond.
According to the BBC, the Skyway is expected to become operational within two years.
Sources: UK Government, Altitude Angel
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