Intelligent Drones Revolutionise Infrastructure Inspections: A Market Report

As part of the Future of Flight Phase III Challenge, the Intelligent Drones for Ports and Highways (InDePTH) consortium envision a future where the deployment of intelligent drones may be used to support a wide range of inspection and maintenance tasks around national critical infrastructures.

Currently, large-scale inspections of critical national infrastructure hold many high-risk challenges for port operators and highway maintenance teams due to a wide range of factors resulting in inefficient processes.

To address this, Connected Places Catapult seeks to capture and understand the end user requirements in a real working environment to provide support by reviewing current and potential use of intelligent drones around critical infrastructures in a more safe, efficient, and seamless manner.

Key learnings are published in this market research report that provides some contextual understanding of the drones, ports and highways markets, identifying current trends and outlining competitive forces that may influence the success of the InDePTH solution. The report offers actionable insights culminating in critical recommendations for further development.

Indepth Market Analysis Report May 2024
File Type: pdfFile size: 13.9MB

Passenger Terminal Expo 2024

The world’s leading airport design and operations show.

When and where?

Messe Frankfurt, Germany
16th - 18th April 2024
8:30am - 6:00pm


This event is now complete

We are delighted to partner with British Aviation Group (BAG) to be present at their exhibition stand and talk about our work around the Passenger Experience programme, Digital Aviation and programmes related to Air Mobility including the Drone Pathfinder Catalyst programme. 

Andrew Chadwick, Ecosystem Director Air Mobility & Airports together with our wider team working on above programmes will  join the the event. If you are attending the Expo, make sure to pay the team a visit.


Innovation Zero 2024

The UK's largest net-zero congress
The image shows the Innovation Zero logo, featuring a green circular icon with a white inner section adjacent to the text "INNOVATION ZERO" in bold, black letters.

When and where?

Olympia London
30th - 1st May 2024
9:00am - 5:00pm


This event is now complete

We are delighted to once again participate in Innovation Zero, and we’re contributing to a number of sessions, including: 

Andrew Chadwick, Ecosystem Director, Air Mobility & Airports, joining the Fuelling Flight: Hydrogen session on 1 May at 11:45.

Alison Young, Head of Global Investment, joining the session on Funding the Automotive Transformation, on 1 May at 12:25 in the Transport & Mobility Forum.


Award win for project deploying drones and advanced AI

Consortium scoops prestigious award for research and development at robotics ceremony
A group of people in formal attire stands on a stage holding an award. A large screen behind them displays the text "The R&D Innovation Award" and "Winner: InDePTH - Intelligent Drones Port and Highways.

‘Intelligent Drones for Port and Highways Technology’ (InDePTH) – a project developing and trialling an innovative approach to the monitoring and control of critical national infrastructure – was recognised at the 2023 Robotics and Automation Awards in London.

Nominated for two awards, InDePTH won the award for Best Research & Development Innovation at the ceremony, held at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms.

Connected Places Catapult, alongside Associated British Ports (ABP), Kier Transportation, RoboK and HeroTech8 is part of the InDePTH consortium being led by BT. The consortium is focused on using automated drone technology and advanced AI techniques to create an efficient, low-carbon and cost-effective solution for infrastructure management.

The project aims to trial ‘beyond visual line of sight’ BVLOS flights using automated ‘drone-in-a-box’ technology to regularly survey large infrastructure estates.

The imagery collected from the drone missions will be used to create digital models, and state-of-the-art machine learning will automatically extract insight from the collected imagery; insight that can be used by end users in near real-time.

Project trials are centred around three real-world use cases for ports and highways developed by ABP and Kier, including landside port operations and management, marine operations and highway safety and defect inspections.

“I’m delighted that the Project InDePTH team has been recognised for their excellent work at the Robotics and Automation Awards. InDePTH is an innovative and technically complex project which will revolutionise the autonomous drones service industry, by bringing agile artificial intelligence to a wide variety of customers and industry sectors.”
Andrew Chadwick, Acting Ecosystem Director for Air Mobility & Airports, Connected Places Catapult
“We’re delighted to have won this award which recognises the potential of InDePTH to transform the way operations are conducted in critical national infrastructure and beyond with the use of autonomous drones. One of the judging criteria for the category was collaboration and the way the partners have come together to jointly tackle the demanding use cases that InDePTH is focussing on really shone through to the judges in our presentation.”
Alistair Duke, Research Manager – Networks, BT Group on behalf of the InDePTH consortium

InDePTH forms part of the Future Flight Challenge Phase 3 programme, delivered by Innovate UK and funded by UK Research and Innovation which aims to help develop the country’s future drone economy.

Flights are taking place at the Port of Ipswich, owned and operated by ABP, to show how drones could help improve asset and inventory management, as well as oversee offshore surveillance and maritime operations.

InDePTH is also deploying drones to continuously assess the surface quality of roads within the port on behalf of Kier, in an effort to spot defects early, which – if used on highways – could improve safety and wellbeing for roadworkers.

Trials of the technology will continue over the remainder of the project, evaluating the technology against the use cases identified by ABP and Kier, and working towards developing a market-ready solution in terms of both the technology and business models.

You can find out more about the consortium partners and their role in the project on our project page and in our project video.


Future Flight InDepth

How can drones be used beyond visual line of sight to unlock new ways to monitor and control critical national infrastructure such as highways and ports? The InDePTH project aims to find out.

The Intelligent Drones for Port and Highways Technology project, InDePTH, forms part of the Future Flight Challenge Phase III programme delivered by Innovate UK on behalf of UKRI. The consortium consists of six partners: BT, Robok, HeroTech8, ABP, Kier and Connected Places Catapult. The group has brought together a range of new technologies and innovative solutions, experience in Collaborative Research and Development (CR&D) projects and domain knowledge to deliver against this national challenge. 

Together, the project team will build and test the use of drones to carry out automatic ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) missions to monitor and control critical national infrastructure such as highways and ports. Specifically, the project will demonstrate value and commercial benefit in 3 use cases for ports and highways, including but not limited to asset management and infrastructure inspection. 

In the next 12 months, the team will gather requirements and key performance indicators (KPIs) for the use cases and begin the design and prototyping of the technical solutions:

  • Use Cases Definition and Requirements (September 2022) 
  • Testing and Demonstrations (March 2023-September 2023) 
  • Dissemination events (July 2023 and Summer 2024) 
  • Business case (March 2024) 

Who is involved?

The partners are: 

  • BT (Lead) 
  • Robok 
  • HeroTech8 
  • ABP 
  • Kier 
  • Connected Places Catapult 

An introduction to the Intelligent Drones for Port and Highways Technology (InDePTH) project by the consortium.

BT Group logo featuring the name "BT Group" in black text and a multicolored line with segments in pink, yellow, blue, green, and purple underneath. The design showcases the brand's vision in-depth.
Logo of Associated British Ports with the acronym "ABP" in bold blue letters, accompanied by the tagline "InDePTH Solutions" and followed by the full name in blue text.
Connected Places Catapult Logo
Logo for Hypixel Studios' "Hytale Open Air," featuring an orange hexagon containing a stylized "H" and the words "Hytale" in black and "Open Air" in orange, designed with InDePTH visual detail.
Logo of Kier featuring a red and teal geometric design with the company name "Kier" in black text, highlighting their commitment to InDePTH solutions.
The logo of ROBO K features a stylized eye within a circular design on the left, accompanied by the text "ROBO K" in a modern font to the right, illustrating an InDePTH approach to innovation and technology.

Project Updates

On Tuesday 18 July, the InDePTH Year 1 event was held at Connected Places Catapult’s London office to showcase progress and learnings made by the consortium to date. The event included two workshop sessions to engage with supportive stakeholders which consisted of a range of government representatives, regulators and industry players.

The three key objectives of this workshop were to 1) better understand the various stakeholders’ desired outcomes for InDePTH’s vision, 2) explore opportunities available that can support with the commercialisation of the InDePTH solution, and 3) identify any potential barriers that could impact our ability to leverage the identified opportunities.

The outputs of these learnings and our recommendations will be presented in future project work.

Robotics and Automation Awards 2023

Project InDePTH is a finalist in the Robotics and Automation Awards 2023 for the Applied Technologies award in the category of ‘Best use of Drones’ as well as the R&D Innovation award in the category of ‘Research & Innovation’. The awards recognise projects that showcase the innovative application of robotics or automation. InDePTH combines both aspects to demonstrate the value of autonomous drones in various use cases across Ports and Highways.

The InDePTH project won the R&D Innovation award! Find out more here

Workshop outputs

The InDePTH consortium is trialling how drones and advanced AI can be used to control and monitor critical national infrastructure.

A range of government, regulator and industry stakeholders were invited to Connected Places Catapult’s London office to introduce them to the InDePTH project and for them to input into the project. At the event, held on Tuesday 18th July, the team presented learnings made by the consortium to date, and ran two workshop sessions to gather insight from the experienced stakeholder group.

The three key objectives of the workshop sessions were to 1) better understand the various stakeholders’ desired outcomes for InDePTH’s vision, 2) explore opportunities available that can support with the commercialisation of the InDePTH solution, and 3) identify any potential barriers that could impact our ability to leverage the identified opportunities.

You can find out more about the key discussion points in the download.

InDePTH Year One Workshop Outputs
File Type: pdfFile size: 1.9MB
Indepth Market Analysis Report May 2024
File Type: pdfFile size: 13.9MB

Future of Air Mobility Accelerator Application Support Webinar

Connected Places Catapult will be hosting an application support webinar for our Future of Air Mobility accelerator to share information and answer any questions applicants may have.
A drone taxi showcasing air mobility flies over a cityscape with tall buildings, a river, and a partly cloudy sky in the background.

When and where?

Online event
23rd August 2022
3:30pm - 5:00pm


This event is now complete

The Future of Air Mobility accelerator (FoAM) is a challenge-led, 6-month accelerator programme powered by Connected Places Catapult and in partnership with the Future Flight Challenge from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The Catapult will select up to 12 SMEs to join the programme where they will receive support from a consortium of industry, government, academic and regulatory partners on the trial and testing of disruptive innovations. Through a focus on new and emerging challenges within the aviation ecosystem, FoAM will work alongside a consortium of partners to ensure that the programme tackles significant sector challenges and de-risks innovation in the marketplace.

The SMEs selected will have the opportunity to trial their solutions and will be guided through a bespoke programme tailored to their requirements. The programme will include investment readiness, technology and product development support, alongside introductions to aviation stakeholders and potential customers. These activities will be co-designed with the cohort of SMEs to support them in growing their businesses and adapting their propositions to the partners’ requirements.

This application support webinar will cover the overall programme vision, the journey of the programme to date, the programme challenges and guidance on the application process.

To find more about the programme and to apply, simply click here.


Yorkshire Housing to trial building inspection with drone technology

Aerial view of a residential area with multiple two-story apartment buildings, tree-lined streets, and a large wooded area in the background.

Connected Places Catapult has brought together Yorkshire Housing and Vantage UAV as part of the Government Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme. The programme is sponsored by the Department for Transport (DfT), and supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and ARPAS-UK, the drone industry association. Together we aim to accelerate the safe adoption of drones across UK business sectors by engaging with industries and showcase the benefits of integrating drone services into existing workflow. 

Drones are not new to property management but, despite their benefits, drones are not yet widely used across industries. This collaboration with Yorkshire Housing aims to catalyse step-change improvements and provide the evidence to encourage more use of drones to drive safety, productivity, and efficiency for other housing providers. For example, a drone building inspection can offer faster diagnosis and improved service for maintenance repairs at customer properties.  

Often the management, repair and maintenance of properties are major costs to housing providers.  Traditionally physical inspections at height use scaffolding or mobile work platforms to inspect the condition of properties. These can be labour intensive and expensive to set up. Depending on the location, they can also result in disruption, intrusion, and security issues with unauthorised access.

This is where drones come into their own, improving safety and productivity by providing visual access to difficult to reach and hazardous spaces, reducing the use of elevated work platforms. Drones can capture high-quality aerial imaging and 3D models. This leads to quicker and more effective diagnosis whilst saving the cost of inspection expenditure and reducing disruption for customers. Ultimately, drones can support more targeted maintenance and move towards a more preventative maintenance regime in the long term. 

Aviation Minister, Robert Courts said:

“We’re pioneering a golden age of aviation innovation in which drones will play a huge role in not only transforming the future of transport but providing solutions to global issues.

Yorkshire Housing’s trial is the latest in a string of exciting new trials which harness the benefits of drones to provide quicker, cheaper and more effective services for the public.”

Commenting on the programme, Andy Gamble, Executive Director Growth & Assets at Yorkshire Housing, said: 

“It’s really exciting to play a part in the national Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme. Yorkshire Housing look after some 18,000 properties across Yorkshire, so drones offer us a real opportunity to improve our service. 

Not only does it make real savings by reducing the need for expensive scaffolding and using heavy machinery to carry safety checks, but it also means our customers can have problems at their homes diagnosed and fixed far sooner.”

Hannah Tew, Director of Air Mobility, Connected Places Catapult said:

“We are delighted to be leading the Drone Pathfinder Catalyst programme on behalf of the Department for Transport and our first demonstration with Yorkshire Housing and Vantage UAV has really shown how drones can be adopted in different sectors to improve existing services.”

Many drone solution service providers are already available on the market, which is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. They can provide end-to-end services even for organisations with little or no experience of using drones. 

The results from the demonstration with Yorkshire Housing will be published towards to end of this month and showcased in a webinar on the 29th June.    

Find out more by registering for Driving productivity using drones in the Housing Sector webinar co-hosted by Connected Places Catapult and Disruptive Innovators Network.