Preston is the only North West representative in the Flying High Challenge
Preston is the only North West representative in the Flying High Challenge
Richard Bell

North West city chosen to pioneer drone technology

Preston has beaten one third of the UK’s cities to become a national drone test centre.

The city was this morning (February 7) named as one of five participants in a new programme exploring how drone technology could help society tackle a range of challenges in the future.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) teamed up with Preston City Council to submit the application to the Flying High Challenge, run by innovation drivers Nesta and Innovate UK.

UCLan and the council will spend the next five months working with national drone experts to host a events for local businesses and work on a strategy for the development of drone applications.

Preston has been identifying and developing civic drone use for several years. In 2014, UCLan established its £250k Civic Drone Centre.

The facility is part of the university’s £32m Engineering Innovation Centre, due to open in early 2019.

Dr Darren Ansell, UCLan’s aerospace engineering lead, said: “The Flying High City challenge is an important opportunity for Preston to develop a vision for the integration of drone systems, building upon its history of aerospace innovation.

“This recognition on a national scale is fantastic; it is putting Preston’s name up in lights and will open doors at the very top levels of the industry.”

Preston City Council’s Assistant Chief Executive, Derek Whyte, commented: “Given the importance of aerospace in the area, it is vital that Preston takes a lead on identifying drone opportunities.

“Preston offers a manageable testing ground for strategy development, yet is of sufficient size and complexity to be able to develop solutions that can be scaled-up elsewhere.”

Michael Green, Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Environment and Planning, said: “The area represents one of the largest clusters of aerospace activity in the world.

“Encouraging innovation in the aerospace sector is a priority for the Lancashire and an important part of the county’s response to the UK’s new industrial strategy.”

Preston is the only North West representative in the Flying High Challenge. The other cities and city regions are Bradford, London, Southampton and the West Midlands.

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