A UK Research and Inno­va­tion (UKRI) Future Flight Chal­lenge com­pe­ti­tion win­ner has tak­en off in Corn­wall to unlock low-lev­el air­space and enable the roll out of ground infra­struc­ture to sup­port life­line and com­mod­i­ty deliv­er­ies via drone.

As part of the ‘Open Skies Corn­wall’ con­sor­tium, ten com­pa­nies and organ­i­sa­tions have part­nered togeth­er to unlock four Cor­nish air­space envi­ron­ments for the devel­op­ment of the next gen­er­a­tion of unmanned air­craft, and to estab­lish a net­work of ‘Sky­high­ways’ to con­nect remote com­mu­ni­ties for real world end users in Corn­wall via drone.

Dur­ing the project event at the end of 2022, mar­itime con­sor­tium mem­ber Fal­mouth Har­bour and drone oper­a­tor Sky­ports Drone Ser­vices con­duct­ed a live pub­lic urban to mar­itime flight demon­stra­tion. The flight between three drone deliv­ery reg­is­ter loca­tions with­in the Fal­mouth Har­bour Drone Test­bed Envi­ron­ment, facil­i­tat­ed by local landown­ers, pro­vid­ed the pub­lic with a first look at how elec­tric car­go could be oper­at­ed at Fal­mouth Har­bour in the future for ship-to-shore deliv­er­ies to pro­vide a more sus­tain­able, effi­cient logis­tics ser­vice.

The pio­neer­ing con­sor­tium is led by DronePrep and also includes Roy­al Mail, NHS Corn­wall and the Isles of Scil­ly Inte­grat­ed Care Board, JHUBMED, Corn­wall Coun­cil, Neu­ron Inno­va­tions and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Southamp­ton.

Gareth What­more, CEO of DronePrep and Project Archi­tect — Open Skies Corn­wall, said: “As we enter 2023, it is very excit­ing to see the Open Skies Corn­wall pro­gramme tak­ing flight. The First demon­stra­tion flight with­in the Fal­mouth Har­bour Test­bed is the first of many pio­neer­ing flights in our unique air­space envi­ron­ments; over the next two years we will be using the intel­li­gence gath­ered from the com­mu­ni­ty via the Drone Deliv­ery Reg­is­ter to plan for mean­ing­ful drone deliv­er­ies to sup­port mar­itime, essen­tial health­care logis­tics and par­cel deliv­ery.

“I am look­ing for­ward to how our tech­nol­o­gy part­ners can work with com­mu­ni­ties to cre­ate sky-high­ways to bet­ter con­nect the region and cre­ate a logis­tics net­work fit for the 21st cen­tu­ry.“

The event pro­vid­ed a first look at just one of the ben­e­fi­cial ser­vices that reg­u­lar drone ser­vices could pro­vide to Cor­nish com­mu­ni­ties via the Open Skies Corn­wall pro­gramme. The flights per­formed in Fal­mouth Har­bour are a con­tin­u­a­tion of tri­als and demon­stra­tions per­formed in 2021 by DronePrep, Win­drac­ers, Sky­ports Drone Ser­vices and Roy­al Mail between the main­land and with­in the Isles of Scil­ly.

The event also marked the first time that the Drone Deliv­ery Reg­is­ter was used. The DronePrep Drone Deliv­ery Reg­is­ter will allow Roy­al Mail, NHS, Corn­wall Coun­cil, Fal­mouth Har­bour users, ves­sel own­ers, landown­ers and busi­ness­es to reg­is­ter take-off and land­ing loca­tions for future drone deliv­er­ies, share per­mis­sion to access land and assets and allow the project part­ners to test low-lev­el flight cor­ri­dors (Sky­high­ways) with agree­ment of all ground stake­hold­ers.

In the future, the reg­is­ter will pro­vide insights into how Cor­nish Com­mu­ni­ties can sup­port progress in this inno­v­a­tive sec­tor to sup­port life­line, med­ical and com­mod­i­ty deliv­er­ies in onshore, island and off­shore mar­itime envi­ron­ments.

As part of the Open Skies Corn­wall pro­gramme, part­ners will invest £2.4m of UKRI Future Flight Fund­ing into Corn­wall to build ground/landing infra­struc­ture, unmanned traf­fic man­age­ment sen­sor net­works, com­mis­sion new unmanned air­craft and estab­lish Sky­high­ways (drone fly­ing cor­ri­dors) to sup­port med­ical and com­mod­i­ty deliv­ery for the NHS, Roy­al Mail, Corn­wall Coun­cil, JHUBMED and the mul­ti­ple users of Fal­mouth Har­bour.

The launch event kicked off the Open Skies Corn­wall com­mu­ni­ty con­sul­ta­tion and invit­ed the pub­lic and busi­ness­es across Corn­wall to help shape the future of drone logis­tics in the coun­ty by using the Drone Deliv­ery Reg­is­ter to feed­back oppor­tu­ni­ties, inter­est and con­cerns.

The event also brought togeth­er third par­ty organ­i­sa­tions includ­ing project man­agers Mott Mac­Don­ald, which is sup­port­ing the Open Skies Corn­wall pro­gramme, the Mar­itime and Coast­guard Agency (Search and Res­cue) which has recent­ly com­mis­sioned £1billion fund­ing for devel­op­ment of their air res­cue capa­bil­i­ty over 10 years.

Also includ­ed are the Civ­il Avi­a­tion Author­i­ty Inno­va­tion team, which is pio­neer­ing reg­u­la­tion via UKRI Future Flight Chal­lenge projects to serve the next gen­er­a­tion of air vehi­cles, and Whole­ship, which has already opened up an area the size of Lux­em­bourg off the coast of Corn­wall specif­i­cal­ly for the devel­op­ment of civil­ian autonomous drone and air taxi ser­vices.

For more infor­ma­tion about the Drop­Prep reg­is­ter and the ‘Open Skies Corn­wall’ con­sor­tium, please click here.