EXCLUSIVE: Nesta reveals how five cities clinched spots in the Flying High Challenge

David Parry/PA Wire

The organisation behind a government-backed aviation scheme designed to further the development of commercial drones has lifted the lid on why each of the five chosen regions topped the list of applications and secured a place in the programme.

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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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.

Nishita Dewan, the lead on the Flying High Challenge, explained to Commercial Drone Professional that the external committee, which was composed of approximately eight industry experts, judged the cities’ submissions on three main criteria: vision, stakeholder engagement and kind contributions.

Dewan said: “[The panel looked at the] general strength of the application in terms of if vision, which really gave us an indication of how thought through their application was. For example when we asked the question around what challenges and barriers do you foresee, that could be answered in a very light touch way or that could be answered in a very deep way.

“Some of the cities had really gone out of their way to identify all of the different potential partners that they might have to engage with. Then in terms of contributions, how much man power, how many hours and how much of their time in kind contribution could they commit to this project?”

While each city was analysed of these three criteria, Nesta had also tasked its panel with considering the type of city and creating a diverse range of cities that could explore UAVs in different use cases.

Dewan added: “We had over a third of UK cities apply and asked the judges to, amongst themselves, decide who they felt had the five strongest applications taking into account the mix of cities because we didn’t want to have just the large metro areas, we wanted to have a mix of smaller cities and larger cities, that was the process we went through to get to that point.”

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

Image: David Parry/PA Wire

Tags : dronesdrones in citiesflying high challengeInnovate UKNestaNishita Dewan
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