Etc., a digital unit within BT Group that supports innovative new businesses, has announced that it has entered into a £5m deal with Altitude Angel, a UTM (Unified Traffic Management) technology provider, to support the development of the UK’s drone industry.
Specifically, the investment is hoped to support the building of the UK’s drone superhighway, which is expected to be the largest and longest network of its kind in the world.
UTM is a software platform and infrastructure used to support the safe flight of drones over long distances without a pilot. The multimillion-pound deal is hoped to accelerate Altitude Angel’s deployment of its ARROW technology, which detects and identifies drones and supports the sharing of airspace with crewed vehicles.
Richard Parker, CEO and founder of Altitude Angel, said: “With BT Group, Altitude Angel has a partner which shares its ambition to make automated commercial drone operations at scale in the UK a day-to-day reality.
“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.
“This will provide the UK with the first nationwide drone superhighways, unlocking the potential of this new and innovative technology and revolutionising business operations in countless industries.”
Altitude Angel has said this deal marks a key milestone in it journey towards scaling the technology, which could lead to the faster delivery of essential and non-essential items across the UK, while also supporting an industry estimated to be worth £45bn by 2030.
The use cases for a drone superhighway include helping the emergency services with real-time search and rescue, faster transportation of medical supplies, farming analysis and architectural planning.
Telecommunications giant BT Group and Altitude Angel previously worked together under the consortium Project Xcelerate and have collaborated on Project Skyway, which aims to produce the largest and longest network of drone superhighways in the world and is backed by the UK government’s Future Flight programme.
The ARROW technology is essential to the project and will be used to create a 165-mile drone corridor spanning airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby.
As part of the agreement, BT Group will provide connectivity, network infrastructure to deploy and maintain Altitude Angel’s ARROW tower network.