Drones to fight fires and deliver COVID-19 supplies are first to receive share of over £33m funding

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Innovative projects harnessing the latest technology to support the fight against COVID-19 and other challenges like climate change, while creating hundreds of jobs across the country, have been backed by government investment, Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi has announced today.

The 20 winning ideas will receive a share of £7m funding ranging from the development of drones capable of delivering COVID-19 medical supplies to remote areas, to technology to enable remote inspections of infrastructure and construction sites – removing the need for workers to potentially be put at risk.

The funding, backing the aviation technologies of the future, comes at a critical time for the industry, with winners demonstrating pioneering ways they are responding and adapting to the challenges posed by issues including climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding today forms part of a wider £33.5m investment with an additional 28 potential projects also in the pipeline for government backing.

Business and Industry Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “As the UK leads the way in the aviation revolution, these bold proposals showcase the pioneering spirit of the UK’s aerospace and aviation industries in solving global issues, and those facing us here in the UK. Today we have announced over £7m of funding for projects across the country which demonstrate how using the latest and most cutting-edge aviation technologies can step up our response to the coronavirus pandemic, help us build back better and cement our well-earned reputation for research and development excellence, while creating hundreds of new jobs.”

Of these, 9 projects are focussed on developing technology to aid the response to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes the development of unmanned drones to deliver medication, reducing human contact and, consequently, transmission of the virus.

Advances in alternative, green energy sources to power aircraft, including hydrogen and electricity, are also a key feature of some of the winning proposals.

The projects include:

  • Dock-to-Dock, based in Cardiff, which is developing a pilot project to deliver goods between Bristol and Cardiff using a hydrogen-powered electric aircraft.
  • NAPKIN, based in Greater London, which focuses on paving the way for low and zero carbon short-haul flights for passengers around the UK.
  • APIAN Limited, based in Essex, is creating and building a drone to deliver medical supplies like COVID-19 blood and swab tests between NHS hospitals and labs in response to the pandemic, protecting key NHS staff and the wider public from coronavirus transmission.
  • The Light Aircraft Company Ltd, based in Norfolk, will integrate electric propulsion into existing aircraft to enable electric flight of small aircraft.
  • Windracers Distributed Avionics, based in Southampton and Bristol, will develop swarming technology, an approach to coordinate multiple robots, to allow multiple drones to fly in close formations and work together to provide humanitarian aid or fight fires.
  • Droneprep Ltd, Consortiq Limited and Windracers Limited, based in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, will use unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver critical PPE and Covid-19 testing kits to vulnerable, rural communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

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