News | 18 Jan 2021

Remotely operated drone project wins share of £30m funding

A consortium of 16 organisations, including Vodafone, has won funding to develop and test a remotely operated drone system for industrial and urban environments.

The project, led by, a tech company specialising in command and control systems for drones, will test whether operators based in a central control room hundreds of miles away can fly autonomous drones safely.

The aim is to develop a system that will enable remote inspection and monitoring of industrial sites, from nuclear power stations to oil and gas installations.

Vodafone’s Radio Positioning Service will be integrated into’s enterprise command and control system, complementing current satellite-based GPS location technology.

Welcoming the funding announcement, Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone UK, said: “For drones to deliver on their huge potential in business, we have to reduce the reliance on people – we have to enable safe and managed flights without the dependence on the traditional piloted approach.

“With our technology, we can play a crucial role in that and we’re looking forward to working with our partners to develop this vital capability.”

The funding comes from the Future Flight Challenge, Phase 2 competition, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation. Innovate UK is investing up to £30m in innovation projects and the Future Flight Challenge is a four-year £125m programme.

The consortium consists of aviation, aerospace, industrial and emergency service companies.

Technical contributors

NATS, Vodafone, BAE Systems, The Met Office, Flock Cover, UAM Consult Ltd and University of Bristol.

Drone service providers

Terra Drone and Sky-Futures

End clients

Atkins; Skanska; Skanska Costain STRABAG working in partnership with HS2; Sellafield; Vodafone; Network Rail; and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

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