Research project to open pathway to commercial drone operations in the UK

A ground-breaking new project announced today will build and then demonstrate how Open-Access UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) capability can support drone operations below 400ft.

The Connected Places Catapult is bringing together a national and international consortium to develop a world leading Open-Access UTM framework for drones. The project, commissioned by the Department for Transport, will continue laying the groundwork for a safe flying environment for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations in the UK, enabling efficient sharing of airspace with manned aircraft and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations of drones.

There is a huge global opportunity for countries that can successfully accommodate commercial drone operations, it’s thought the sector could be worth £127bn globally. UTM is recognised as a key enabler to address the safe and efficient integration of unmanned vehicles into the airspace and Connected Places Catapult in collaboration with AiRXOS (part of GE Aviation), Altitude Angel, ANRA Technologies, Collins Aerospace and Wing will work towards the first set of the safe and regulated UTM capabilities this year.

This research and development project will create principal architectural features, communications interfaces and key services that will be evaluated through simulations before progressing to field-trials. The trial will build on existing platforms and standards to create a developmental system to explore UTM and drone operations, as well as identifying the next research steps and facilitating knowledge transfer to government and industry.

Dr. Ajay Modha, Principal Technologist at the Connected Places Catapult, said:

“This is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate a UK-specific UTM ecosystem and represents a key step in lowering the technology and operational barriers for UAS operations. A key objective is to demonstrate how this capability can support near term and future markets needs and ambitions. As Phase 2 of the Future Flight Challenge kicks-off, a key aim of this project is to provide greater insight and actionable data to the UAS community who may be tackling UTM for the first time”.

Ted Lester, Chief Technologist, AiRXOS said:

“After participating in the successful 2019-2020 effort with Connected Places Catapult to develop a framework for UTM in the UK, AiRXOS looks forward to demonstrating with peer UTM service providers safe, efficient, and economical UAS airspace integration to accelerate the beneficial use of UAS in the UK and around the world.”

On being chosen to take part in the Connected Places Catapult project, Richard Ellis, Altitude Angel, Chief Business Officer said:

“We are delighted to continue to work with CPC to continue validation of the Open UTM framework we pioneered in 2019.  The live trials will benefit significantly from Altitude Angel’s existing extensive API’s and experience of providing production services across the world.  We believe this will form a solid foundation for the UK to establish repeatable and scalable drone operations.”

Amit Ganjoo, CEO and Founder of ANRA Technologies UK Pvt Limited said:

“The UK is rapidly becoming a global leader in advancing commercial drone technologies.  We are honoured to have contributed to all Connected Places Catapult Open-Access UTM Research and Development Programmes and are excited to commence live-flight testing in pursuit of a safe, interoperable, and efficient traffic management system,”

Sean Camilleri, Principal Strategic Development Manager at Collins Aerospace said:

“This ground-breaking program gives us the opportunity to test out the most prominent emerging standards and theories of UAS traffic management and put them to the test in collaboration with our peers. Successful trials will enable us to move another step closer to unlocking the full social and economic benefits of beyond visual line of sight drone operations in the UK”.

James Ryan Burgess, CEO at Wing said:

“Drones and the services they provide present significant benefits to the United Kingdom, supporting emergency response, reducing emissions and air pollution and increasing access to food, medicine and other goods. We’re pleased to be joining the Catapult project to advance the safe and open use of the airspace and look forward to bringing our global experience to enable a scalable and low cost UTM architecture that can support the volume and diversity of unmanned aviation.”

Note to Editors

This project will build on the UTM and Government Drone Pathfinder activity that Connected Places Catapult has published previously:

Future Flight Challenge

Future Flight is one of several challenge areas set-out by the UK government’s Industrial Strategy which is a long-term plan to raise the productivity and earning power in the UK. The Future Flight programme is funded by £125 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which is expected to be matched by up to £175 million from industry. The challenge will cover four areas of activity:

  • Control and regulations including air traffic management
  • New operating models
  • Ground infrastructure
  • Integrating new aircraft with a new aviation system

This challenge aims to revolutionise the way people, goods and services fly and position the UK as a world leader in aviation products and markets worth over $675 billion (£559bn) to 2050.

It will support the development, in the UK, of new technologies from freight-carrying drones to urban air vehicles to hybrid-electric regional aircraft. These new modes of travel will increase mobility, reduce road congestion, improve connectivity, increase UK manufacturing opportunities and help aviation to reduce its environmental impact around the world.

Government Drone Pathfinder Programme

Connected Places Catapult manages the Drones Pathfinder Programme in partnership with the Department of Transport (DfT) and supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  

Media Contacts

Natasha Moore

Connected Places Catapult

+44 7741 165015

Stephen Lynn

Connected Places Catapult

+44 7496 437907

About AiRXOS (part of GE Aviation)

AiRXOS, part of GE Aviation, is making a new way of moving possible. From people, to package and medical delivery, inspections, and public safety – we’re taking on the global challenge of the digital drone economy and changing the future of transportation. AiRXOS is digitizing today’s airspace, infusing next generation air traffic management technology and services with world-class aviation expertise and execution, AiRXOS is shaping a new era of transportation through global, commercial Unmanned Aircraft (UA) solutions.  For more information about AiRXOS, visit airxos.ioLinkedIn, and Twitter.

About Altitude Angel

Altitude Angel is the world’s leading provider of UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) software, enabling those planning to operate, or develop UTM/U-Space solutions, to quickly integrate robust data and services with minimum effort.

From a consistent, well-documented and standards-based platform, drone manufacturers such as DJI and cutting-edge software developers around the world use our Developer Platform to obtain rich, relevant and local geofencing data, exchange and share flight plans, de-conflict their own flights in real-time and interface with national flight authorisation systems. A growing portfolio of enhanced capabilities help our customers to comply with current and future regulations and interface with changing national systems with only minimal effort.

Altitude Angel’s first party solutions also power some of the world’s leading ANSPs, aviation authorities and Enterprises, including LVNL (Netherlands) and Avinor (Norway), empowering them with new capabilities to safely manage and integrate drone traffic into national operations.

Today, Altitude Angel’s market-defining technology is providing a critical, enabling service on which the future of UTM, especially in controlled airspace, will be built across the globe.

By unlocking the potential of drones and helping national aviation authorities, ANSPs, developers and enterprise organisations, Altitude Angel is establishing new services to support the growth in the drone industry. Altitude Angel was founded by Richard Parker in 2014 and is headquartered in Reading, UK.

Altitude Angel’s developer platform is open and available to all at

About ANRA Technologies

ANRA Technologies, a UK Private Limited Company, with offices in London, Washington DC, and New Delhi, is an international provider of end-to-end drone operations and traffic management solutions for unmanned aircraft operators and airspace managers. ANRA offers intelligent and modular traffic management software capabilities as part of the SmartSkiesTM family for standards compliant UAS Traffic Management (UTM) and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) operations. For organizations that need an enterprise-class drone operations solution, we offer Mission ManagerTM, and for delivery solutions we offer SmartSkies DeliveryTM.  Learn more by visiting

About Collins Aerospace

Collins Aerospace Systems is a leader in technologically advanced and intelligent solutions for the global aerospace and defence industry. Collins Aerospace has the capabilities, comprehensive portfolio and expertise to solve customers’ toughest challenges and to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving global market. With 2019 net sales of approximately $26 billion, the business has 78,000 employees across more than 300 locations globally. It is one of the four businesses that form Raytheon Technologies. For more information, visit

About Wing

Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet, has built a small, lightweight aircraft and navigation system that can deliver small packages directly to homes in minutes, in addition to an Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management (UTM) system that helps drones navigate the skies safely. Created in 2012, Wing has conducted more than 100,000+ flights across three continents. We believe drone delivery will improve the way our cities operate by reducing road congestion and creating new economic opportunities for local businesses. For more information visit

About the Connected Places Catapult

The Connected Places Catapult accelerates smarter living and travelling in and between the places of tomorrow. We focus on growing businesses with innovations in mobility services and the built environment that enable new levels of physical, digital and social connectedness. The Connected Places Catapult operates at the intersection between public and private sectors and between local government and transport authorities. We convene the disparate parts of the market to help innovators navigate the complexity of doing business, creating new commercial opportunities and improving productivity, socio-economic and environmental benefits for places.