Job-creating aviation projects in the South West are among pioneering schemes set to receive UK Government funding aimed at supporting the fight against Covid-19 and other challenges like climate change.
The 20 winning ideas will receive a share of £7m funding ranging from the development of drones capable of delivering Covid-19 medical supplies to remote areas, to technology to enable remote inspections of infrastructure and construction sites.
Among the South West projects are Windracers Distributed Avionics, based in Southampton and Bristol, which will develop swarming technology, an approach to coordinate multiple robots, to allow multiple drones to fly in close formations and work together to provide humanitarian aid or fight fires.
Droneprep, Consortiq and Windracers, based in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, will use unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver critical PPE and Covid-19 testing kits to vulnerable, rural communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Claire Owen, co-founder at DronePrep, said: “We’re really pleased to have secured a share of this first wave of funding, which will allow us to provide practical support to the NHS this winter. It builds on the work we have been undertaking in the region, engaging with landowners on both the mainland and the Isles of Scilly to help define future flight plans.”
Gareth Whatmore, co-founder of DronePrep, added: “The project this new funding will support is a great illustration of how opening up low-level airspace in a safe and co-ordinated way can support the health and wellbeing of communities in difficult-to-access areas.
“One of the aims of our first project was to develop our understanding of the needs of landowners and regulators so we could open up flexible drone corridors to support the local community. This new project is the first real-life manifestation of that vision.”
The funding today forms part of a wider £33.5m investment with an additional 28 potential projects also in the pipeline for UK Government backing.
Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: “The UK is already a world-leader when it comes to innovation in aviation and this funding will allow us to carry on supporting the extraordinary work taking place right across the country.
“Innovation delivers real change and our support for dynamic ideas in this exciting sector means we are now seeing real life solutions, like the drone delivery of COVID-19 medical supplies, for challenges such as public health and climate change.”
The £33.5m investment comes from the Future Flight Challenge, which aims to increase mobility, reduce reliance on road travel thereby improving road congestion, and increase UK manufacturing opportunities.
Today the first wave of 20 winners have been announced, with more projects to be announced in the coming weeks.
Of these, nine projects are focussed on developing technology to aid the response to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes the development of unmanned drones to deliver medication, reducing human contact and, consequently, transmission of the virus.