Preston selected as drone technology pioneer

Preston has seen off strong competition to become the North West's only representative on the Flying High drone technology programme.

The city becomes one of just five in the UK following a successful joint application between the University of Central Lancashire and Preston City Council.

Dr Darren Ansell, UCLan aerospace engineering lead, said: “The Flying High City challenge is an important opportunity for Preston to develop a vision for the integration of drone systems, building upon its history of aerospace innovation.

The team will have the opportunity to work with technical experts, regulators and government officials while the city will also get priority status for future demonstration projects.

Preston has been at the forefront of identifying and developing civic drone applications for several years, evident through the work of UCLan’s Civic Drone Centre, which was established in 2014 with £250,000 investment.

The Civic Drone Centre is an important component of UCLan’s new £32m Engineering Innovation Centre, which will be open in the heart of Preston City Centre in early 2019.

Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning at Lancashire County Council, said: “The area represents one of the largest clusters of aerospace activity in the world. Encouraging innovation in the aerospace sector is a priority for the Lancashire and an important part of the county’s response to the UK’s new industrial strategy."

Nishita Dewan, programme lead for the Flying High Challenge, explained: “The entries to the Flying High Challenge showed the huge appetite from cities across the UK to develop models for drones that work for their people and communities. "We saw diverse and creative uses for drones such as boosting wi-fi and helping find lost children at the seaside, to the support for key public services such as delivering AEDs and inspecting critical infrastructure.”

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