IN JANUARY 2020 the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Preston City Council (PCC) invited a range of key players from the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) sector, including SMEs, international aerospace companies, regional policy makers and researchers to form a regional stakeholder group for the Aerial Uptake project.

Aerial Uptake - funded by the EU Interreg Programme - seeks to:
Bring together local / regional public authorities and key players of the UAS sector from 6 European regions, being pioneers in the creation of a single European drone market.

They exchange and transfer knowledge to unleash the potentials of UAS technology for civil and commercial usages. Besides exploring and addressing key needs and bottlenecks of innovation and commercialisation, partners investigate tailored solutions for increasing societal acceptance by enhancing and articulating positive social impacts of drone technology.

Project partners include UCLan, PCC and European partners consisting of municipalities, regional governments and research institutes: Province of Overijssel and City of Enschede (The Netherlands), Government of Catalonia and I2CAT (Spain), City of Osijek (Croatia), Rzeszow Regional Development Agency (Poland), Preston City Council and University of Central Lancashire (United Kingdom) and RISE, the Research Institutes of Sweden.

Workshop key insights and interregional approaches

UCLan and PCC convened the first stakeholder group for the Lancashire area, following guidance laid out by project partner i2Cat, and developing it for local conditions. Our key insights where:

SOCIETAL: Drone use cases are more attractive when they are explicitly focussed on public good, and not for simple commercial gain

MARKET: Lancashire should be driving the drone sector: it’s well placed to do this with a visible supply chain, an active research hub and with international corporations easily within geographical reach

INNOVATION: Cutting-edge UAV research is inspiring when shared more broadly. A potential policy intervention is possible to accelerate ‘innovation’ via the Local Enterprise Partnership and emerging Local Industrial Strategy

Challenges were also identified both within the drone ecosystem and within the Aerial Uptake project, specifically around the ‘elephant in the room’, namely Brexit. With UK and the EU shifting its relationship, the stakeholder group felt Aerial Uptake will need to navigate this issue with care. A national as well as a regional angle may also be required in influencing some of the project themes.

Nevertheless, the group were eager to learn more about the project and how it could benefit the region, drone operators, technology providers and the general public.