UK companies BT and unified traffic management (UTM) specialist Altitude Angel have struck a deal, combining their work building the nation’s 165-mile drone superhighway based on an agreement that gives the telecom giant an equity stake in the start-up.
Under the accord, BT will provide Altitude Angel with nearly $6 million in funding for its UTM work on the future drone corridor. It will be developed with the two groups coordinating their tech and hardware contributions to enable safe navigation of UAVs in the same airspaces as legacy craft. As part of that exchange, BT will acquire an undisclosed percentage of equity in Altitude Angel and be given a seat on the start-up’s board.
Read: Telecom firm BT leads project testing the UK’s first drone corridor
The incubation team of BT’s digital development unit, known as Etc., will be directly involved with Altitude Angel under the deal, which traces its roots to their work in 2021 developing UTM systems for a smaller test drone corridor within a consortium called Project XCelerate.
Under their extended partnership, BT will again be providing 4G and 5G connectivity to enable Altitude Angel software and servers to interact with and orchestrate safe flights of various aerial vehicles across the planned superhighway.
The government-supported project will permit autonomous, guided, and in-craft piloted flights over a central England corridor spanning Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby. Under its partnership with BT, Altitude Angel is planning to broaden deployment of its ARROW UTM platform thousands of miles further across airspace expected to host myriad transport, delivery, first responder, enterprise services, and public work activity by drones.
“At Etc., we support businesses like Altitude Angel, who have game changing ideas that benefit from BT Group’s scale and our agile approach to growth,” said Tom Guy, managing director of Etc./BT Group. This partnership is a natural extension to BT Group’s work building the leading network in the UK, supporting the UTM industry that sits adjacent to our core business.”
Read more: UK government approves 165-mile drone superhighway project
Under their new agreement, BT will provide connectivity, network infrastructure, and support in scaling Altitude Angel’s UTM tower networks across the drone superhighway. It also becomes a key reseller of Altitude Angel’s software, in addition to providing commercial support for drone deliveries in retail and automated smart UAV inspections of critical infrastructure.
“Combining our ARROW technology, which allows crewed and uncrewed aircraft to share the same skies, safely and securely, with BT Group’s significant communications infrastructure, we can quickly bring ARROW to the masses,” said Altitude Angel CEO Richard Parker. “This will provide the UK with the first nationwide drone superhighways, unlocking the potential of this new and innovative technology and revolutionizing business operations in countless industries.”