United Kingdom

UK Government Invests £33M Into Drones To Fight Fires And COVID-19

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The first wave of grant recipients are creating ground-breaking aviation projects that are solving major global challenges.

Innovative projects harnessing the latest technology to support the fight against COVID-19 and other challenges like climate change, while creating hundreds of jobs across the country, have been backed by government investment, Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi has announced today (9 November 2020).

The 20 winning ideas will receive a share of £7 million 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 – removing the need for workers to potentially be put at risk.

The funding, backing the aviation technologies of the future, comes at a critical time for the industry, with winners demonstrating pioneering ways they are responding and adapting to the challenges posed by issues including climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding today forms part of a wider £33.5 million investment with an additional 28 potential projects also in the pipeline for government backing.

UK Government Invests £33M Into Drones To Fight Fires And COVID-19

The £33.5 million 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, 9 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.

Advances in alternative, green energy sources to power aircraft, including hydrogen and electricity, are also a key feature of some of the winning proposals.

This investment is part of the government’s commitment to help advance the UK’s future transport system through its extensive R&D Roadmap and to increase R&D public spending to £22 billion per year by 2024/25.

The £7.35 million funding announced today represents the first wave of projects totaling £33.5 million funding through the Future Flight Challenge (FFC). Over the next few years, The FFC will distribute £125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

The FFC aims to accelerate the UK’s position as a world leader in revolutionizing how people, goods and services fly. It focuses on the development and demonstration of a novel integrated aviation system that enables the safe operation of new classes of air vehicles. These include air taxis, drones and regional aircraft using electric or autonomous technologies. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to bring together researchers and businesses to tackle the big societal and industrial challenges of today.

The Drone Industry Action Group was established in 2016 as a collaborative forum for government and the sector to exchange views as the opportunities and challenges emerge in the move to autonomous flight.