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BT joins the angels to build network to manage drones

Altitude Angel mast.jpg

BT is to build a radio network to help guide drones operated by Altitude Angel, a UK-based traffic technology provider.

The technology will detect and identify drones, while also enabling drones to share the airspace with crewed aviation safely and securely, said BT.

Altitude Angel is starting with Project Skyway, a 265km drone corridor covering airspace above southern England, including Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry and Rugby. But the company has wider ambitions.

Altitude Angel CEO Richard Parker said: “This will provide the UK with the first nationwide drone superhighways, unlocking the potential of this new and innovative technology and revolutionising business operations in countless industries.”

The deal with BT is relatively modest, at £5 million, but the telco says will create a “pathway for widescale drone usage”.

The money comes from Etc, an incubation team in BT’s digital unit. BT will take a shareholding and Dave Pankhurst, BT’s director of drones, will represent the group with a seat on Altitude Angel’s board.

Etc managing director Tom Guy said: “This partnership is a natural extension to BT group’s work building the leading network in the UK, supporting the UTM [unified traffic management] industry that sits adjacent to our core business.”

BT and Altitude Angel say the deal “is crucial to drone innovation, supporting commercial and retail use cases, but also enabling drones to transform how essential services function – from supporting the emergency services with real-time search and rescue, fast transportation of medical supplies, farming analysis, and architectural planning”.

Guy said: “Together we bring unparalleled drone solutions to market, underpinned by digital innovation and our network strength, as we open the skies to solve genuine consumer and business needs.”