City leaders, regulators, public services, businesses and industry are being invited to collaborate around the future of drones in cities. They will tackle challenges around use cases, safety, regulation and ethics.

Nesta, in partnership with Innovate UK, has launched the Flying High Challenge. It will collaborate with up to five cities across the UK to shape the future of drones and drone systems.

By collaborating with selected cities, the Flying High Challenge will support cities to develop plans based on local community needs.

The initiative looks to:

  • Shape city plans on the future of drones in UK cities, exploring specific applications of drones within cities and hazardous environments.
  • Identify and address key complexities such as technology, infrastructure, law, regulations, safety and privacy.
  • Detail technical and economic plans that unlock market opportunity through regulatory testbeds, open innovation technology challenges and live, real-world demonstrations.

The challenge will focus on four key areas.

  • Technology: Drone technology is advancing rapidly. The programme will explore the potential to perform critical services in everyday city life – from transporting urgent medical supplies to bridge inspection and repair.
  • Cities and people: Cities and people must be at the centre of shaping potential uses for drones and how they integrate sustainably into communities.
  • Potential impact: Looking at how drone systems have the potential to advance cities’ social, economic, transport, environmental and innovation plans.
  • Integration challenges: Drone systems must integrate sustainably and safely within cities and hazardous environments, taking into account real-world conditions. Cities will examine how this will work.

“If we are going to have drones in our towns and cities they must be fit for our society. By finding uses for the technology – beyond toys for hobbyists or used in conflict – the UK can establish itself as a world leader in drones.”

By Tris Dyson, executive director of Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre