The UK’s “Flying High Challenge” to Bring Drones to Cities

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As the US moves forward with the UAS Integration Pilot Program in an effort to involve local governments in drone regulation, the UK is stepping up with the Flying High Challenge – an effort to bring city leaders and the drone industry together to “shape the future of drones and drone systems.”

“Run by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, in partnership with Innovate UK, the Flying High Challenge is the first programme of its kind to convene city leaders, regulators, public services, businesses and industry around the future of drones in cities,” says the program.  “By collaborating with selected cities, the Flying High Challenge will support cities to develop plans based on local community needs.”

Organizers say that the Challenge will look at specific applications of drones within cities and “hazardous environments”; as well as addressing issues like infrastructure, regulations and privacy.  But the Flying High Challenge goes further than just collaborating on regulation: this program also attempts to boost industry and help cities access the economic benefits of the drone business.  Challenge participants will “detail technical and economic plans that unlock market opportunity through regulatory testbeds, open innovation technology challenges and live, real-world demonstrations,” says the program.

The Challenge is organized by Nesta, an “innovation foundation” in collaboration with Innovate UK, a government agency.  The organizers say that the program’s goals are to introduce a collaborative approach between industry stakeholders, citizens and government leaders to envision the future of drones in cities; and to shape the regulatory environment with an understanding of potential problems.  In addition, however, the Challenge aims to establish the UK as “a world leader in drone systems.”

The collaborative approach is one that is proving efficacious as governments struggle to write regulation that supports industry and provides local communities with the opportunity to regulate for their specific needs.  With the Flying High Challenge, the UK is moving forward towards drone integration that everyone can live with.


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