KEY PLAYERS from around Lancashire were brought together in January to discuss the future of drone technology development across the region, and the potential research, skills, economic and social benefit it could have.
Underpinning this approach would be to create a shared vision of Lancashire as a national and international leader of drone technology development. This vision would include trailblazing use case – such as search and rescue, delivering essential medical supplies or other life-saving scenarios – that could benefit the public as well as UAV firms.
Representatives who attended the session included UAV SMEs, large aerospace firms, research and development, local government and drone operators met at the University of Central Lancashire’s Engineering Innovation Centre.
The day was kicked off by Professor Darren Ansell, aerospace and space lead at UCLan, and John Crellin, head of city development at Preston City Council.
Conversations during the workshop focussed on the best way to develop drone capacity, and what barriers may be faced.
Barriers ranged from a lack of coordination and collaboration at a local level, limited funding and concerns around public perceptions of drone use.
The group centred around a number of concepts for charting a path forward. These included a joined-up strategy – uniting policymakers, industry and academia.
Participants also felt a coordinated public engagement campaign was needed to better convey how drones could make a real and positive impact in people’s lives and the broader economy.
Underpinning all this work should be a strong regional strategy and identity. One participant explained that in the future: “Lancashire [will be] seen as one of the most important regions in the UK (and Europe) for the development and testing of UAVs as part of a wider economic development cluster.”