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PRESS RELEASE

Drones in our cities by 2020, predict a quarter of people - rising to half by 2024

More than two in five (43%) say they agree or strongly agree that drones can help deliver public services, a poll(1) released today for the Flying High Challenge shows -- a challenge run by Nesta in partnership with Innovate UK to help cities design how drone technology could be used to support their local needs.

Those polled by OnePoll say they are the most supportive of drone use for emergency response (86%), police assistance (79%) and environmental conservation (61%). And when it comes to using and operating drones to deliver services, police, fire service and health service are the most widely trusted to do so.

People say they oppose or strongly oppose drone use for parcel delivery (44%), passenger transport (39%), leisure activities (eg personal use) (36%).

The call for up to five cities to work with the Flying High Challenge is now live until 19 January. Select cities will explore if and how drone technology could operate locally, in their complex city or town environment. The selected cities, together with regulators, businesses and the industry, will look at issues ranging from regulation and ethics to safety and public opinion.

More than two in five (44%) don’t believe they have a say in how drones may impact their community. The Flying High Challenge will work with cities to engage with their communities and understand their citizens’ needs. A third say national government should take the lead in what drones should and shouldn’t do in cities, followed by regulators (26%) and local government (14%). Only 3% say drone manufacturers and 1% say businesses should be the most responsible.

Nishita Dewan, Flying High Challenge lead, comments, “Our poll shows considerable support and trust for public services to use drones in their cities to support local needs. There appears to be less support for personal and commercial use of drones. While people see national government and regulators taking the lead in how drones are used, we’d like to see local governments and their communities have more of a say in how drone technology and its use develops in their own complex towns and cities.”

The poll shows that more needs to be done nationally and locally to help people shape their view on drone technology and its use. One in three (33%) say they don’t have a good understanding of drones and their potential use and more than half (54%) don’t have a good understanding of the rules and regulations governing the use of drones in the UK.

For some, the risks appear to outweigh the rewards with two in five (40%) saying drones pose more risks than benefits to the local economy. The potential use of drones for terrorism (77%), spying (73%) and drug delivery (71%) top the list of concerns, closely followed by drones falling from the sky or crashing (69%), being hacked (67%), noise pollution (62%), replacing jobs (55%).

Nearly a third (32%) say drones can have a positive impact on their local economy.

Selected cities will keep an open mind as they explore the potential use of drones, which could include support for:

  • Emergency health services such as rapid organ or blood transport
  • Risk assessment and maintenance of bridges and critical infrastructure
  • Working in extreme and hazardous environments such as fires and floods
  • Search and rescue assistance for police and emergency services
  • Environmental and pollution monitoring
  • Logistics and delivery

The Flying High Challenge will work with cities with an interest and commitment to exploring and shaping drone technology in a way that meets the needs of local people and the future city they want to live in. Cities, local authorities, combined authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) or similar local government entities can register their interest in taking part at flyinghigh.challenges.org

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Notes to editor

For media enquiries and interviews please contact Anna Zabow or Sarah Reardon at [email protected] or call Anna on 07414 875765 or Sarah on 07880 613 500.

The study was conducted by OnePoll between the 4th and 12th of December and polled 2000 UK adults, with at least 50 living nearest to each city from a list of 30 (excluding Aberystwyth). Participants were recruited online and were paid to participate.

The Flying High Challenge is run by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, in partnership with Innovate UK

About Nesta

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit www.nesta.org.uk

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

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