Drones to fight fires and deliver COVID-19 supplies are first to receive share of over £33 million government funding

9 Nov 2020 02:18 PM

Government announces the first wave of winners receiving government funding for ground-breaking aviation projects solving major global challenges,

Innovative projects harnessing the latest technology to support the fight against COVID-19 and other challenges like climate change, while creating hundreds of jobs across the country, have been backed by government investment, Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi has announced today (9 November 2020).

The 20 winning ideas will receive a share of £7 million funding ranging from the development of drones capable of delivering COVID-19 medical supplies to remote areas, to technology to enable remote inspections of infrastructure and construction sites - removing the need for workers to potentially be put at risk.

The funding, backing the aviation technologies of the future, comes at a critical time for the industry, with winners demonstrating pioneering ways they are responding and adapting to the challenges posed by issues including climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding today forms part of a wider £33.5 million investment with an additional 28 potential projects also in the pipeline for government backing.

Business and Industry Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said:

As the UK leads the way in the aviation revolution, these bold proposals showcase the pioneering spirit of the UK’s aerospace and aviation industries in solving global issues, and those facing us here in the UK.

Today we have announced over £7 million of funding for projects across the country which demonstrate how using the latest and most cutting-edge aviation technologies can step up our response to the coronavirus pandemic, help us build back better and cement our well-earned reputation for research and development excellence, while creating hundreds of new jobs.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said:

The UK is already a world-leader when it comes to innovation in aviation and this funding will allow us to carry on supporting the extraordinary work taking place right across the country.

Innovation delivers real change and our support for dynamic ideas in this exciting sector means we are now seeing real life solutions, like the drone delivery of COVID-19 medical supplies, for challenges such as public health and climate change.

The £33.5 million investment comes from the Future Flight Challenge, which aims to increase mobility, reduce reliance on road travel thereby improving road congestion, and increase UK manufacturing opportunities. Today the first wave of 20 winners have been announced, with more projects to be announced in the coming weeks.

Of these, 9 projects are focussed on developing technology to aid the response to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes the development of unmanned drones to deliver medication, reducing human contact and, consequently, transmission of the virus.

Advances in alternative, green energy sources to power aircraft, including hydrogen and electricity, are also a key feature of some of the winning proposals.

The projects include:

Today’s announcement is part of wider support for the aviation and aerospace industries. The UK has a world-leading aerospace sector generating well-paid jobs and suitable growth across the country, and the government is continuing to support the industry - and their aviation customers - with over £9.5 billion in R&D grants, loans and guarantees, and support for exports and exporters.

Notes to editors:

In total 34 projects are set to receive a share of £30 million, while an additional 14 projects, focused specifically on coronavirus response, will receive a share of a further £3.5 million.

Today 20 winners, receiving a total of £7.35 million, have been announced.

Of the winning proposals announced today, projects include:

Projects focused specifically on coronavirus include:

This investment is part of the government’s commitment to help advance the UK’s future transport system through its extensive R&D Roadmap and to increase R&D public spending to £22 billion per year by 2024/25.

The £7.35 million funding announced today represents the first wave of projects totalling £33.5 million funding through the Future Flight Challenge (FFC). Over the next few years, The FFC will distribute £125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). The FFC aims to accelerate the UK’s position as a world leader in revolutionising how people, goods and services fly. It focuses on the development and demonstration of a novel integrated aviation system that enables the safe operation of new classes of air vehicles. These include air taxis, drones and regional aircraft using electric or autonomous technologies. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to bring together researchers and businesses to tackle the big societal and industrial challenges of today.

Further quotes:

Future Flight Challenge Director at UK Research and Innovation, Gary Cutts, said:

At this very challenging time for the international aviation industry, it is a great testament to the UK’s drive and ambition that we have had such a strong response to the first funded Future Flight competition.

The breadth, quality and creativity of the bids has been exceptional and the economic and social benefits offered are very significant.

Chair of the Drone Industry Action Group, Ian Gray, said:

The Future Flight Challenge has been hugely successful in bringing together the different communities necessary to realise the economic and social benefits in the UK of autonomous air vehicles. I am delighted on behalf of the Drones Industry Action Group to see the range of successful grant awards including drone developers, service providers and Air Traffic Management solution providers.

The Drone Industry Action Group was established in 2016 as a collaborative forum for government and the sector to exchange views as the opportunities and challenges emerge in the move to autonomous flight.