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.

Foreword to 'Flying High: The future of drone technology in UK cities'

We have a golden opportunity to shape the future of drones in the UK

Tris Dyson

There is a moment in time where a new technology is in its infancy, where the opportunity exists to shape how it evolves and impacts our lives. A moment where we can choose for it to be largely beneficial and driven by the needs of those it will affect.

This is also a moment where a country can position itself to take the lead in its development and reap the associated economic benefits.

For drones that moment in time is now.

There are competing views on the future of drones in UK cities, and the country at large. Utopian visions of smart cities, congestion solved, services streamlined. Dystopian visions of surveillance, nuisance and noise. And for many, not much vision at all: an uncertain future, seldom thought of in any depth.

The Flying High project intends to shine some light on this future. To better understand what drones’ place in our lives might be, to find out what challenges lie in store, to assess the benefits to cities and the people who live in them, and to start a much-needed conversation to build a shared view of this future.

This report is a summary of some of the key things we’ve done and the key facts we’ve learned as part of this process of engaging with five UK cities, as well as national stakeholders and experts.

The most important legacy of Flying High though is not in the pages you are reading now, but in the coalition that has been built, the shared objectives that have been developed and the future action that will follow.

Tris Dyson
Executive Director
Challenge Prize Centre

This report demonstrates the potential of drone technology

Andrew Tyrer

The five city projects under the Flying High project are all excellent examples of the potential for drone technology to make a real difference to our everyday lives.

This important report clearly sets out the challenges involved in delivering the vision for drone utilisation in city landscapes, and also points out the huge potential for UK companies and organisations to seize these exciting opportunities.

This is why UK Research and Innovation were pleased to sponsor this first stage of the Flying High project, because it complements the aims of the Industrial Strategy Robots for a Safer World Challenge.

When we made the case to government for Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund investment in robotics and artificial intelligence, one of the prime candidate areas was extreme and hazardous environments. Not only is it one of the places cutting-edge robotic technologies are being developed, it’s a place where the UK already plays well, where there is a defined need and where the opportunity to grow and dominate international markets exists.

The Flying High project’s goal will be to help accelerate the use of cutting edge robotic drone technologies into real-world, complex city environments. Its findings will be important for the whole robotics and AI sector.

Andrew Tyrer
Challenge Director, Robots for a Safer World
UK Research and Innovation