EXCLUSIVE: Engaging with communities is key to ramping up UAVs in urbanised areas, says Nesta

David Parry/PA Wire

Troubleshooting negative public perceptions of drones will play a key role in Nesta’s project centred around developing the commercial use of drones in urbanised areas.

The Flying High Challenge is a programme developed by UK charity Nesta in partnership with the Government’s Innovate UK, and is designed to help the UK become a “global leader in shaping drone systems that place people’s needs first.”

Nesta sought applications from forward-thinking cities who were bidding to participate in a four-month strategic visioning exercise scheduled for this year to identify how drone systems could work alongside cities and their communities.

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Nishita Dewan, the lead on the Flying High Challenge, explained to Commercial Drone Professional that a key aspect to consider throughout all phases of the programme is the public’s perceptions of UAVs and dispelling negative perceptions.

She said: “We haven’t yet measured the public sentiment but there is a general feeling that there is a negative public sentiment around drone technology because it stems from the most advanced applications being in the military, so what we’re hoping is that through our research and work with the cities, by putting cities first, they are our channel to engage with the public.

“At this level we’re not engaging with the national public, but through cities we are engaging with local communities and we’re trying to understand the specifics around the concerns and how can we can make sure that when we do the granular research around the use cases that we try and address some of those concerns.

“Our goal is to help try and shift that public sentiment from this negative place to a neutral place to hopefully more of a positive place.”

Following a three-week deliberation, an external committee of industry experts, which was commissioned with the task to allow Nesta to remain impartial, deemed that London, Bradford, Preston, Southampton and the West Midlands, submitted the most well-rounded submissions.

The final five regions, that were announced earlier this year, will focus on a specific use case of UAVs, which will be announced over the coming weeks.

Image: David Parry/PA Wire

Tags : Innovate UKNesta
Emma Calder

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