Nesta has revealed the first insights from the first phase of its ground-breaking Flying High Challenge, an initiative to develop drone use cases in urbanised regions. The organisation revealed its findings yesterday and commented that there is still a lot of work to be done. The report states…
The public needs to be on side if drones are to be used more widely. The conversation has barely started on what drones should and should not do. Through the Flying High project, cities are starting to think about this, but so far the general public has played only a small role in the discussions. From what we know to date, there is widespread public support for the use of drones for cases of clear social benefit, such as supporting the emergency services, but some suspicion of more speculative uses such as parcel delivery.
In the first instance, the focus on drone deployment in cities should be on the uses with the clearest social value. Findings on social value and public confidence emerge throughout this report.
Among a number of challenges, solving flight beyond the operator’s visual line of sight is key. We have examined the wide array of tasks to which drones can be put. In partnership with five cities, we have selected five socially beneficial use cases in order to explore their technical, social and economic aspects.
Each of these use cases are technically possible to demonstrate in a limited sense today, but to realise them as everyday, routine services in complex environments requires several key challenges to be overcome.
Most of these use cases utilise the capability of drones to cover a lot of ground rapidly and with a degree of automation. That means having drones fly beyond the visual line of sight of an operator. Doing so safely at scale in a busy environment is still a major technical and regulatory challenge. There are also challenges around integrating, validating and regulating autonomy; and developing new infrastructure to safely manage large numbers of low altitude aerial vehicles.