BT has invested £5 million in a start-up as part of a scheme aiming to create a drone corridor across southern and central England to carry cargo and other supplies.
The BT Group’s digital hub, Etc, is investing the money into drone firm Altitude Angel, to support its work on what is known as Project Skyway.
The scheme would see a 165-mile drone corridor created above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby – in what the two companies hope will become the UK’s drone superhighway and the largest and longest network of its kind in the world.
The long-term aim of the project is to connect towns and cites, as well as transport and package delivery hubs across the country using drone networks.
Altitude Angel is working on software technology that detects and identifies drones, while also enabling the small aircraft to safely share airspace with other, crewed aircraft.
Under the £5 million deal, BT Group will provide connectivity and network infrastructure to enable Altitude Angel to roll out its software.
Tom Guy, managing director of BT Group’s Etc hub, said: “At Etc, we support businesses like Altitude Angel, who have game-changing ideas that benefit from BT Group’s scale and our agile approach to growth.
“This partnership is a natural extension to BT Group’s work building the leading network in the UK, supporting the UTM (Unified Traffic Management) industry that sits adjacent to our core business.”
As part of the deal, Dave Pankhurst, BT Group’s director of drones, will take a seat on Altitude Angel’s board.
Mr Guy said: “This deal also brings with it a stake in Altitude Angel, arguably the UK’s leading voice in the development of the drone and air-mobility airspace industry.
“Together we bring unparalleled drone solutions to market, underpinned by digital innovation and our network strength, as we open the skies to solve genuine consumer and business needs.”
Altitude Angel founder and chief executive Richard Parker 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.”