About Flying High

The Flying High Challenge is the first programme of its kind to convene city leaders, regulators, public services, and industry around the future of drones in the UK cities.

From February till June 2018, the Nesta Flying High team will work together with Bradford, London, Preston, Southampton and West Midlands to develop vision for drone systems based on local community needs and ambitions.

Flying High 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.

Flying High will position the UK to become a global leader in shaping drone systems that place people’s needs first.

Why now?

Drone technology is becoming increasingly viable in urban environments. UK cities now have a unique opportunity to shape this disruptive technology, in order to maximise the economic and social benefits it could bring.

By bringing together city leaders, regulators, public services, businesses and industry, Flying High will help cities explore the public attitudes, logistics and safety of drones operating in complex urban environments and develop plans for drone uses for their communities.

A fully engaged network of stakeholders will create space for technological innovation and thus unlock commercial opportunities for drone systems in the UK whilst ensuring sustainable integration, safety and privacy.

Sample Use Cases

Inspect (Hazardous Environments)

Inspecting buildings and infrastructure for maintenance or response to an incident is costly and time-consuming. It can also be dangerous when it involves hazardous environments such as tall buildings, electricity pylons or radioactive material. Using unmanned aerial vehicles can save time, money and even lives, as well as enable inspections that were previously highly challenging or not possible at all. This is one of the first use categories that has seen relatively widespread civic and commercial deployment of drones. UAV’s are used by National Rail to inspect tracks and respond to incidents, by the National Grid surveying high voltage electricity networks, and by fire and rescue service to inspect incidents such as the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. What else could the future hold for inspection by flying robots?

Monitor (Marine Ports)

Cities often need to continuously monitor particular areas and drones integrated with special sensors and cameras could be particularly useful in meeting these needs. Should they be used to search for missing people? Or map areas to assess flood risk? Perhaps to continuously monitor waste sites for fire risk? Several important uses of drones for monitoring could be found around ports, including testing water quality, monitoring shipping lanes, assessing air quality or policing waters. UAVs for monitoring could reduce the risk to people and the environment as well as delivering large improvements in the efficiency of services.

Deliver (Medical Supplies)

Would you want drones to be delivering your online shopping? Or should UAVs be restricted to delivering urgent medical supplies such as defibrillators or organs for transplant? Using drones could result in quicker delivery time and reduce congestion and associated pollution, but a large increase in drone traffic would come with its own environmental drawbacks. Delivery could be along fixed routes (A to B), from regional hubs to any location (A-X / X-A) or between any two locations (X-X). Looking further into the future, drones could even be used to deliver human cargo. In the UK Amazon recently trialled its Air Prime drone delivery service in Cambridge but so far use of drones for transport logistics has been limited.

Intervene (in City Infrastructure)

Drones have the potential to go beyond passively monitoring their environment. In our future cities robotic UAVs could play at active role, repairing potholes and cracks in bridges, removing debris, boosting wifi in crowds or even generating electricity. Using drones could be safer than performing tasks manually and radically cut time and cost. Currently the functionality of this technology is in fairly early stages but there are several exciting projects in the UK developing autonomous city-repairing and even 3D printing construction drones. But what are the acceptable boundaries of this technology and do we want it at all?
November 27th
Flying High Challenge Launch
Flying High national public launch, as highlighted in national and regional news outlets (The Times,The Telegraph and Sky News)
Key Stakeholders Identified and Convened
Flying High developed a Key Stakeholder Forum to ensure alignment with policy, regulation and strategy at a national level. The Forum is comprised of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Department for Transport, and the Civil Aviation Authority.
December 4th
City Applications Open Call
Cities across the UK were invited to apply to the Flying High Challenge. City outreach efforts included direct engagement, a webinar and research publications to support cities in their applications.
February 7th
Partner Cities Announcement & Kick-Off Workshop
Twenty UK cities bid for a place on the Flying High Challenge. An independent judging panel composed of public services authorities, city thought-leaders, and industry stakeholders screened and shortlisted the applications to five final partner cities. Bradford, London, Preston, West Midlands and Southampton were selected.

The Kick-Off workshop on February 7th is hosted, convening Partner Cities, the Judging Panel, Key Stakeholders, and the Flying High Challenge Team
Cities Assemble Task Forces
The partner cities assemble task forces to inform and guide the Flying High Challenge locally and start working closely in partnership with Nesta’s Flying High team, local and national stakeholders.
City Task Forces Select Use Cases
Partner cities convene task forces to select prototype use cases for evaluating technical and economic feasibility, as well as crafting the inputs and opportunities needed to shape the city’s visions around drone operations.
City Vision Development/ Technical and Economic Feasibility Studies
Partner cities deepen engagement locally to investigate and evaluate the implications of drones performing a variety of functions locally.

Partner cities review and analyse preliminary findings of the technical and economic feasibility of chosen prototype use cases.
Final Report Release Event
Nesta will host an event to celebrate the final report, inviting all Partner Cities and other Flying High stakeholders.

Findings from Flying High Phase I to be presented, along with the next steps for Phases 2 & 3

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