Another phase of drone development activity has been initiated in the UK, with the Open Skies Cornwall program assembling nearly a dozen partners to test use cases and recruit additional participants to facilitate regular UAV services along the southwest England peninsula.
Backed by nearly $3 million from the UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge project, Open Skies Cornwall will be operating drones initially on a set of four “sky-highways,” or low altitude corridors in which UAVs will fly trial delivery missions. The objective is for those to start transporting supplies like medicine or critical payloads to remote communities or offshore ships in what is hoped will be increasing traffic as the 15-month test schedule advances.
Headed by UAV training and flight organizing company DronePrep, Open Skies Cornwall has been joined by drone delivery services and vertiport specialist Skyports, the UK’s National Health Service, Royal Mail, Cornwall Council, the military’s emergency relief unit, and Falmouth Harbour – which will serve as the operation’s testbed.
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Slated to run through April of next year with an option of extending trials an additional six months, Open Skies Cornwall is an outgrowth of earlier UAV testing that involved several current participants. Those included regular drone delivery of mail to the Isles of Schilly, chemotherapy products to the Isle of Wight, and protective gear and vaccines to remote parts of Scotland during peaks in the COVID-19 pandemic.
An initial demonstration flight has already been staged as a means of providing locals a look of the project’s drones in operation, and to invite outsiders to join the Open Skies Cornwall effort. That will involve landowners registering to give their authorization for over-flights – thereby enabling new corridors to be opened – ship operators signing up for land-to-sea delivery services, and residents of the area providing their feedback.
“The first demonstration flight within the Falmouth Harbour Testbed is the first of many pioneering flights in our unique airspace environments,” said DronePrep CEO Gareth Whatmore. “Over the next two years we will be using the intelligence gathered from the community via the Drone Delivery Register to plan for meaningful drone deliveries to support maritime, essential healthcare logistics, and parcel delivery.”
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Though initially designed to test regular drone operation for the benefit of residents and businesses across the Cornish peninsula, Open Skies Cornwall more broadly seeks to offer an example of how regular UAV operations would work as a part of daily life throughout the UK.
“I am looking forward to how our technology partners can work with communities to create sky-highways to better connect the region, and create a logistics network fit for the 21st century,” said Whatmore.