BT has invested £5m in a start-up as part of a plan to create a drone corridor across southern and central England to transport cargo and other supplies.
BT Group’s digital headquarters Etc is investing in drone company Altitude Angel to support its work, known as Project Skyway.
The plan will see a 165-mile drone corridor created over Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby – what the two companies hope will be the UK’s drone superhighway and the largest and longest network of its kind in the world.
The long-term aim of the project is to connect towns and cities as well as shipping and parcel distribution centers across the country using drone networks.
Altitude Angel is working on software technology that detects and identifies drones while also allowing small aircraft to securely share airspace with other crewed aircraft.
Under the £5m deal, BT Group will provide connectivity and network infrastructure to enable Altitude Angel to launch its software.
Tom Guy, general manager of BT Group’s Etc, said: “At Etc, we support businesses like Altitude Angel, who have game-changing ideas that leverage BT Group’s scale and our agile approach to growth.
“This partnership is a natural extension of BT Group’s work in building the leading network in the UK and supports the UTM (Unified Traffic Management) industry adjacent to our core business.”
As part of the deal, Dave Pankhurst, BT Group’s director of drones, will sit on Altitude Angel’s board of directors.
Mr Guy said: “This deal also brings a stake in Altitude Angel, the UK’s undisputed leading voice in the development of the drone and air mobility airspace industry.
“Together, we bring to market unique drone solutions powered by our digital innovation and networking power as we open the skies to solve real consumer and business needs.”
Richard Parker, founder and CEO of Altitude Angel, said: “BT Group and Altitude Angel have a partner in the UK who share a passion to make automated commercial drone operations a daily reality at scale at scale.
“By combining our Arrow technology, which enables crewed and uncrewed aircraft to share the same sky safely, with BT Group’s important communication infrastructure, we can quickly bring Arrow to large masses.
“This will provide the UK with the first nationwide drone highways, unlocking the potential of this new and innovative technology and revolutionizing business operations across countless industries.”