Nesta Picks Five Flying High Cities

Today Nesta announced  Bradford, Preston, London, Southampton and the West Midlands as the five Flying High Cities for their High Flying Challange.

Who is Nesta?

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. They back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. Work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. They are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment.

The High Cities Challange

Nesta says that their Flying High Challange:

” …will explore specific drone use cases within cities and hazardous environments and address key technology, infrastructure, regulatory, safety and privacy complexities. The challenge will detail technical and economic plans that unlock market opportunity through regulatory testbeds, open innovation technology challenges and live, real-world demonstrations. The subsequent phases of the Flying High through to 2020 will ultimately test the drone applications in the partner cities.”

However, there are few details in what Nesta plans to do from now untill 2020. The five Flying High Cities which have been selected are only phases one. Phase one only lasts four months. There are no details of phase two, or infact how many phases there will be. Or what each phases might involve.

Nesta have published two documents that might be of use for some people. There is an introdcutory pack and some use cases. However, there are primerally aimed at the cities involved. And it is unclear how infromation and insights gained from the High Flying Challange will benifit the UK as whole and not just the five Flying High Cities.

The Five Flying High Cities

  • Bradford – Some of the earliest drone testing happened in Bradford, a city with a population of over half a million across a large district that includes densely populated urban areas, moorland, farmland and woodland. It’ll be looking at how drones can support district priorities such as flooding and community safety.
  • London – The capital has the busiest and most heavily regulated airspace in the UK, presenting unique challenges for drone deployment but with a natural flight corridor in the Thames. The city will be looking at a range of applications in support of the Mayor’s Strategies and the Healthy Streets Approach to city planning, from near-term applications such as river search and rescue to future-gazing ideas such as drone deliveries.
  • Preston – A small city of over 100,000 people and the main urban centre in Lancashire, is the location of the largest aerospace cluster in the UK. The city is home to the Civic Drone Centre, set up by the University of Central Lancashire in 2014 to work with local authorities, communities and businesses to support new applications of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Drones are already being used in Preston to support the fire service and local Environment Agency and the Council is interested in extending this to other areas such as upgrading road networks and monitoring air pollution.
  • Southampton – One of the UK’s major port cities and interested in drone uses around port safety, blue light services and offshore logistics. The City Council is working in collaboration with the University of Southampton, which has very strong drone and autonomous systems expertise as the leader of a large consortium project called CASCADE looking at implementation of drones in civil airspace as well as participating in the EPSRC Future Cities project from a drone perspective and the Airstart project with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI).
  • West Midlands – A large region encompassing the cities of Birmingham and Coventry, including two airports, several universities, multiple local authorities and 2.8 million residents. The city is interested in UAV use cases surrounding the UK City of Culture 2021 and Commonwealth Games 2022 events. There is a lot of work going on in the region around autonomous / semi-autonomous systems, and potential synergies for Flying High with a connected and autonomous vehicle test bed being built in the region.