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Pioneers of tomorrow

Drones that can quickly survey motorways and ports, reducing the need for costly transport system closures, are among a raft of new aerospace technologies being backed by the Government.

Other technologies, including solar powered aircraft, ultra-efficient wings and medical treatment carrying drones will benefit from the multi-million pound funding package announced by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng at the Farnborough International Airshow today (18 July).

Through the Future Flight Challenge, led by UK Research and Innovation, 17 projects will share £105.5 million in funding to develop and demonstrate integrated aviation systems and new vehicle technologies. The projects will work with the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure they are delivered safely and effectively. They include:

  • Project HEART, based in Orkney and Bedford - £10 million to explore using aircraft powered by hydrogen or electricity to open up greener regional connectivity across the UK;
  • Open Skies Cornwall - £2.4 million to work with Royal Mail and NHS Kernow to use drones to provide residents on the Isles of Scilly with regular, reliable deliveries of mail and medical supplies;
  • CAELUS 2, based across Scotland - £10.1 million to use electric drones to support the distribution of medical products and medicines across Scotland, including helping to treat cancer patients in their local community, rather than requiring them to travel; and
  • Skyway, based in Reading - £12.9 million to use drones to quickly and efficiently survey infrastructure, such as motorways and ports, reducing the need for costly transport system closures and improving delivery times.


Previous funding has supported development of a world-first regime for crash-protected containers that drones can use to carry sensitive goods such as vaccines and a project to unlock regulatory barriers to flying taxis.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The return of the Farnborough International Airshow after a four-year absence is a clear example of the aerospace and aviation sector’s recovery. Today’s package of support will further this recovery and help the sector seize on the enormous opportunities for growth that exist as the world transitions to cleaner forms of flight.

“Through funding for the latest in green technology, such as solar and hydrogen powered aircraft, and setting out our vision for the fast-growing market for commercial drones, we are once again placing the aerospace sector directly at the centre of our plans to deliver jobs and grow the economy.”

Transport Minister Robert Courts added: “The steps we have set out today will ensure our aviation sector remains world-leading and fit for the future, helping to deliver on our ambitious climate change goals and boost high-skilled job opportunities.

“Integrating drones into our transport system will play a huge part in better connecting communities, from potentially delivering vital NHS treatments in isolated communities to capturing high quality aerial imaging for rescue teams."

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