Within the next two years, the United Kingdom is expected to have the largest autonomous drone superhighway in the world, as the government has given its nod to a 265-km-long superhighway network, dubbed Project Skyway.

Several ground-based sensors will need to be placed as part of this process in order to properly direct the connected drones through ‘corridors’ to their destinations. A traffic management system, which functions as a kind of air traffic control for drones, will analyse the data to direct the drones along their routes and prevent collisions.

To make India a drone hub, the government introduced Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for ‘Drones and Drone Components’ in September last year.

Apart from India, what is currently happening in the UK is one of those examples of how governments around the world are using the technology for the countries.

It is noteworthy that the ideas were put out by a group that included BT and software firm, Altitude Angel.

The Drone-Based Future

Drones have recently taken on a crucial role in the operations of many enterprises and government agencies around the globe and they have successfully penetrated markets where some industries were either inactive or lagging behind.

Drones are proving to be very helpful in places where people cannot access or is unable to operate in a fast and efficient manner, such as making quick deliveries during rush hour or surveying an unreachable military base.

These UAVs can reach the most remote locations with little to no human intervention and with the least amount of work, time and energy required, whether they are operated by remote control or by a smartphone app.

Currently, the adoption of drones can be seen particularly in sectors such as military, business, personal, and future technology.

However, in the UK, the recently approved project aims to connect airspace above towns and cities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Milton Keynes and Rugby. It is part of a £273 million (over Rs 2,600 crore) support package plan for the aerospace industry and the project particularly is expected to receive more than £12 million (more than Rs 114 crore).

It is believed that this project will unlock the immense potential that unmanned aerial vehicles have to offer.

Additionally, according to the British government, it will provide a total of £105.5 million (over Rs 1,000 crore) exclusively for initiatives involving “integrated aviation systems and new vehicle technology," such as UAVs like drones.

These initiatives include a plan to deploy drones to transport mail and medications on a regular basis to the Isles of Scilly, in southwest England and to distribute medications throughout Scotland, which may allow certain cancer patients to receive treatment in their neighbourhoods.

According to BBC, Dave Pankhurst, BT’s director of drones, said that Skyway is about to scale up trials that have been going on around the UK and to assure safety, the project collaborated with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the country.

He also stated that according to its findings, people are more inclined to accept a drone if they are aware that it is performing a crucial function.

Can This Happen In India

UAVs were first purchased by the Indian Army in the 1990s from Israel, and then by the Indian Air Force and Navy. During the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan, India employed military drones for the first time to conduct photo reconnaissance along the Line of Control (LOC).

Since then, it was noticed that drones offer tremendous benefits to not only defence, but all sectors in the economy, including agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation and geo-spatial mapping.

Recently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation gave the go-ahead for a pilot project with the Telangana government to evaluate alternate logistics pathways for safe, precise and dependable pickup/delivery of medical supplies in outlying locations using drones.

Now when the UK is on its way to having the world’s biggest automated drone superhighway, the question appears—whether such projects are possible in India or not.

Agnishwar Jayaprakash, CEO and Founder of Garuda Aerospace, one of the companies named as the beneficiaries under the PLI scheme in India for drone and drone components, told News18 that a huge project like UK’s Skyway is a “great example” of how drone policies have evolved globally over the last few years.

He also said that drones are being used for a wide range of purposes, and innovation in the sector has been fuelled by a shift in perception of how Drones were perceived previously.

Jayaprakash said: “Since 2020, the Centre has liberalised the drone policies and India is poised to become the drone capital of the world. When the Prime Minister flagged off the Garuda Kisan Drone Yathra, where 100 Agri-drones simultaneously took off on February 19, it signalled the dawn of a new era for the Entire Drone ecosystem.”

“We are currently in the final stages of raising $30 million at a $250 million valuation and firmly on the path to becoming India’s 1st ever drone unicorn start-up. Funding leads to more innovation and ingenuity which are critical to execute projects of large magnitude like Skyway in India,” he added.

Vishal Saurav, CEO and founder of VFLYX India and XBOOM Utilities, told News18 that on a global scale, drones are achieving incredible feats and have started to be recognised for the value they can bring to the future of society.

He said: “Observing traffic and delivering essential supplies will become much easier, thanks to the Skyway project, which will be a remarkable human achievement.”

“In terms of drone technology, India is fast catching up with the rest of the world. Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated that his goal is for India to become the world’s largest drone centre by 2030. For us, it’s about moving much closer to that goal,” Saurav added.

According to him: “Numerous chances will arise as a result. Although it may be too soon for India to start a project like Skyway, the day will come when India will seize control of such initiatives."​