UK telecoms group BT is investing £5 million into Reading based UTM (Unified Traffic Management) software firm Altitude Angel as it looks to accelerate development of ‘Project Skyway.’

Andrew Wooden

January 4, 2023

3 Min Read
BT Drone super highway

UK telecoms group BT is investing £5 million into Reading based UTM (Unified Traffic Management) software firm Altitude Angel as it looks to accelerate the development of ‘Project Skyway.’

The £5 million pot is being invested through BT’s incubation unit called Etc and is supposed to aid Altitude Angel with the roll out of its drone detection technology called ARROW.

The idea is this will form the basis of Project Skyway – a 165-mile drone corridor spanning airspace above Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Coventry, and Rugby, which the BT release describes as the largest and longest network of drone superhighways in the world – though of course it hasn’t been built yet.

As well as the cash injection, BT Group will provide connectivity, network infrastructure and its ‘scalability experience’ (which is presumably something like strategic business advice) to deploy Altitude Angel’s ARROW tower network. Once it’s been set up BT will be the ‘key reseller’ of the software.

We’re told the financial backing will also allow Altitude Angel and the consortium it is heading up to extend its plans for the Skyway corridor beyond the planned 165-miles, to ‘thousands of miles of Skyway infrastructure connecting towns and cities as well as transport and package delivery hubs, across the country.’

“With BT Group, Altitude Angel has a partner which shares its ambition to make automated commercial drone operations at scale in the UK a day-to-day reality,” said Richard Parker, CEO and founder of Altitude Angel. “Combining our ARROW technology, which allows crewed and uncrewed aircraft to share the same skies, safely and securely, with BT Group’s significant communications infrastructure, we can quickly bring ARROW to the masses.  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.”

Tom Guy, Managing Director of Etc at BT Group added: “This deal also brings with it a stake in Altitude Angel, arguably the UK’s leading voice in the development of the drone and air-mobility airspace industry. 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.”

Like autonomous driving, automated drone fleets is an idea that has been buzzing around in tech circles now for a while, without actually emerging as a practical service. All good things take time of course, and with the shift in societal behaviours towards more home working and the proliferation of shopping delivery services, you can certainly see a market for drones swooping about and efficiently dropping off packages.

How far away we are from that becoming a reality is another question. In the announcement BT cites a report which claims the ‘drone contribution to the UK economy’ will be £45 billion by 2030. Which strikes us as a bullish estimate to say the least – but who knows?


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About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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