About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Challenge to cities to shape the future of drones

As unmanned, autonomous aviation technology progresses rapidly, the prospect of drones crisscrossing our cities – performing anything from parcel delivery to health care services to infrastructure maintenance – is becoming increasingly viable. Drones are part of a global tide of complex technological change that will require a new approach to how we plan for emerging industries, and in turn reap the public benefits. 

However, a number of technical, policy, regulatory and practical considerations need to be addressed before drones can operate safely in our communities. There are many choices to be made, around the regulation, infrastructure and operations of drone systems, which will have lasting impacts on both the technology and our cities for decades to come. We believe that a collaborative approach with cities, the public, government, technology firms and regulators is critical to maximising the economic and social benefits drones could bring to UK cities.

Call to action

The Flying High Challenge, a world first programme run by Nesta in partnership with Innovate UK, was announced last week. Led by cities, Flying High will position the UK to become a global leader in shaping drone systems that place people’s needs first. 

The first phase of the Challenge will consider how drone technology develops to meet the needs and realities of urban life, ultimately leading to subsequent phases focused on the development of technology challenges culminating in large-scale, live, real-world demonstrations of integrated drone systems. 

Nesta is seeking applications from forward-thinking cities that would like to participate in a four-month strategic visioning exercise in winter/spring 2018 to identify how drone systems could manifest within their communities. 

Up to five places will be selected through an open call, competitive application process to become Flying High Cities. These cities will collaborate with Nesta to explore if and how drones could operate in a complex city environment, using their own community as a testbed. Flying High Cities will have access to a dedicated full-time team at Nesta as well as technical, regulator and government officials, and will benefit from accelerated learning and knowledge sharing nationally as well as the opportunity to develop visions and strategies specific to their community. Most importantly, Nesta will support the selected cities to engage the public viewpoint on this topic.

Interested? You can learn more at flyinghigh.challenges.org.

You can also download our introductory pack for more information on the potential uses for drones in cities. 

Full applications must be submitted by 19 January 2018 at flyinghigh.challenges.org.

Part of
Flying High


Kathy Nothstine

Kathy Nothstine

Kathy Nothstine

Head of Future Cities, Challenge Works


At Challenge Works, Kathy is the Head of Future Cities, where she focuses on place-based innovation and empowering cities to shape their destiny.

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