Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme

The UK has the opportunity to become a world leader in the use of commercial drones. And, with advances in technology innovation and emerging regulatory frameworks, public and private sector organisations are embracing drone solutions to boost productivity and accelerate growth.

By embedding drones in your digital transformation strategy, you can manage costs and enable efficiency savings, control risks, increase safety, minimise negative environmental impact, optimise outcomes and drive growth.

If you are interested in finding out more, the Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme provides a platform for you to:

  • Understand the benefits that drone technology can deliver for your organisation
  • Grow your network, connect with academics, SMEs, government, regulatory bodies and drone services
  • Explore solutions on how to embed drone technology within your business and share information with the drone community
  • Inform government roadmaps and policy, as well as future regulatory constructs
  • Use the Drone Pathfinder Catalyst team’s expertise, knowledge and understanding of the financial, societal and environmental benefits of using drones
  • Align your organisation with the government’s industrial strategy and capitalise on the UK’s world-class strengths in drone innovation

Drone Readiness Assessment

Connected Places Catapult has developed a high-level approach for adopting and scaling drone use within organisations.

Drone Readiness Assessment
File Type: pdfFile size: 0.4MB

Engaging across UK industry sectors.


The Drones Pathfinder Catalyst Programme is focussed on driving the adoption of uses that can be carried out today with existing technology and regulatory frameworks.

To build and maintain the UK’s position as a world leader in commercial drone services and applications by driving adoption in public and private sectors.

The Drones Pathfinder Catalyst Programme aims to accelerate progress in drone technology and regulation. This will enable sectors to fully leverage the technology and successfully innovate in areas such as data capture, geo-mapping, national infrastructure inspections and surveying, medical and emergency services, and the provision of other commercial and public sector services.


The Drones Pathfinder Catalyst Programme is focussed on driving the adoption of uses that can be carried out today with existing technology and regulatory frameworks.

This will be realised by identifying and overcoming technical, operational and commercial barriers to drone applications; providing a platform for innovators to engage with government and the regulator at early stages, to explore solutions and share information and knowledge.

The Programme will:

  • Build awareness and identify commonalities between the many diverse use cases, in both aviation and non-aviation sectors, showcase the potential applications and benefits, encourage collaboration between innovators and industry, facilitate live testing of operational concepts, and enable the sharing of knowledge and information
  • Encourage industry to consider a variety of solutions in areas such as airspace access and improved situational awareness, to help unlock the potential for sustainable beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations
  • Provide a forum for collaboration in tackling identified challenges and building a catalogue of standard scenarios which will support future business models, regulatory frameworks, and government policies
  • Change public perception of drone technology, increasing acceptance which will help drive wider use of drones
  • Award grants to enable SMEs to undertake early-stage research development and studies to explore how we integrate drones into UK airspace

Delivering the Government’s build-back-better plan for growth

The Plan for Growth Build Back Better: our plan for growth – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) is launching a new innovation strategy incorporating the role of technologies, including robotics and autonomous systems.

Drones offer a significant opportunity for the Government to deliver on this plan, as well as the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge – one of four Grand Challenges designed to make the UK a world leader in the way people, goods, and services move, now and in the future.

The Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme is part of the wider government programme to promote emerging technologies as drivers for growth. In 2021, Programme’s focus was refreshed, under the governance of the Department for Transport (DfT), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Connected Places, with a new focus on driving the drones market across the UK’s non-aviation sectors; showcasing and demonstrating use cases specific to different industry sectors; as well as providing opportunities for SME’s to become involved and innovate.


The Programme will take a structured approach to achieving routine use of drones within the UK by exploring how challenges can be overcome to enable routine BVLOS operations. This will be firstly executed through demonstrations that showcase the many diverse use cases of drone technology.

To ensure that the focus of the Programme remains up to date, the list of Pathfinder Challenges detailed at Part C – Application Guidance may be updated from time-to-time by the Steering Committee, which will consider actual industry engagement, current national needs, horizon scanning and requests received that are beyond current regulatory approval mechanisms.

In 2021-2022, there are opportunities for SMEs to get involved through the Department for Transport’s Drones Transport Research Innovation Grants (TRIG: Drones) initiative, delivered by Connected Places Catapult. And for industry to apply and receive funding towards developing and demonstrating particular use cases.

This activity will, in turn, address the public’s perception of drones; driving acceptance and an uplift in drone use.

The Pathfinder Community

Transport Infrastructure Construction: Sensat, Costain Group, IUK , The Connected Places Catapult

Energy Infrastructure: EIC, Callen-Lenz, Wales & West Utilities, Cadent, National Grid Transmission, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid, Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks, UK Power Networks, Callen-Lenz, Connected Places Catapult.

Geomapping: Ordnance Survey

Get in touch

To find more about the Pathfinders or to get involved, please get in touch at drones@cp.catapult.org.uk

What’s happening in the pathfinder?

Innovation partners

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