Ten leading 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.
- Open Skies Cornwall consortium launches Cornish Community consultation to help shape the UK’s first Skyhighways to support the future of Drone Delivery in Cornwall between 2023-24
- Project launch event included a milestone flight where project partners achieved the UK’s first urban maritime drone flight in the newly designed Falmouth Harbour Maritime Drone Testbed Airspace Environment which has become the UK’s first Drone Friendly Harbour with a focus on supporting next generation net-zero maritime logistic capabilities
- As part of the event: Open Skies Cornwall partner Skyports Drone Services successfully showcased the capability of their maritime drone fleet using landing locations sourced by the Drone Delivery Register to help stimulate Falmouth harbour users to sign up to the projects’ ship to shore trials which are scheduled for operation in 2023/24
- During the launch event at the National Maritime Museum, project lead DronePrep unveiled the Drone Delivery Register: an online tool designed to showcase how landowners, the public and businesses can help shape Cornwall’s future drone delivery network and to provide an opportunity to suggest landing locations to support lifeline medical delivery and parcel delivery services in the region
- Consultation responses in January 2023 will enable the Open Skies Cornwall project partners including Skyports Drone Services, Royal Mail, the NHS and Falmouth Harbour to use this new mode of transport to form part of their future permanent logistics offering
‘Open Skies Cornwall’: A UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Flight Challenge competition winner, has taken off in Cornwall with the aim of using landowner, public and local business feedback to help unlock low-level airspace and enable the roll out of ground infrastructure to support lifeline and commodity deliveries via drone.
The pioneering consortium led by DronePrep, and formed of Falmouth Harbour, Royal Mail, NHS Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board, JHUBMED, Cornwall Council, Skyports Drone Services, Neuron Innovations, and University of Southampton are working together to test the next generation of civilian drones, their infrastructure requirements and enabling technology, to serve logistics providers in both public and private sectors across the region.
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 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.
Rhys Gittoes, Skyports Drone Services Open Skies Cornwall project lead, said: “Our first series of demonstration and trial flights in Falmouth marks the start of an exciting phase of growth for the Open Skies project and for UK drone operations. With this first urban flight, we’re able to demonstrate to the businesses and people we serve that drone services are a quiet, safe, beneficial addition to the communities they live and work in. We’re excited to build momentum with consortium members throughout 2023!”
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.
Open Skies Cornwall partner Cornwall Council, who have overseen considerable investment via the Cornwall Aerospace programme including their previous investments in the Lizard Range, Lands End Airport, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, Windracers and the AeroHUB at Spaceport Cornwall, provided facilitation and representatives from Council portfolio holders and Cornwall Aerospace beneficiary companies, whilst JHUBMED outlined their mission to use ‘red cross’ drone solutions to support their humanitarian response in civilian aid scenarios. Open Skies Cornwall Partners Neuron Innovations and the University of Southampton presented their enabling sensor tech and medical research which will support end users of the Open Skies Cornwall project achieve regular flight in the future.
The event also brought together third party organisations including project managers Mott MacDonald who are 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, the Civil Aviation Authority Innovation team, who are pioneering regulation via UKRI Future Flight Challenge projects to serve the next generation of air vehicles and Wholeship who have 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.