back to article UK lays world's longest autonomous drone superhighway

The United Kingdom - or, rather, a 165-mile stretch of it - will soon be the home of the longest autonomous drone highway in the world. Project Skyway's 265km route will stretch from Reading to Coventry, forming a "T" shape by jutting out north of Oxford and running to Cambridge. Milton Keynes and Rugby are also in the Skyway' …

  1. WolfFan Silver badge

    Both HM Gov and BT?

    Obviously the song will be ‘All Screwed Up’.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Both HM Gov and BT?

      I was thinking 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

        otherwise known as DDDDC?

        p.s. where's Dido, her Deployment is Demonstrably & Definitely Demanded!

  2. steelpillow Silver badge

    Good grief!

    A direct connection between Oxford and Cambridge? Changing times indeed!

    No roads, no trains going direct? Don't let a century of Ministry apathy and indifference faze you! Take that drone taxi down the Skyway!

  3. Bartholomew Bronze badge

    If it has to be AC/DC ?

    The 1979 "Highway To Hell" album and the track would be "Shot Down in Flames" ?

    I'm only picturing an average of about 2 drones a minute flying overhead 24/7 (~1 million drones a year) eventually driving the people living below this test path nuts.

    I also wonder will the paths chosen mysteriously avoid all golf and cricket clubs.

    Is it even a "T" shape?

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: If it has to be AC/DC ?

      I'm trying to picture the geography and I think they mean a "t" shape, not a "T" shape.

  4. just another charlie

    Excellent and about time, already places like australia employ drones for delivering urgent items such as blood to remote locations. Here in the UK we don't have the remote locations, at least very few, but we do have a need for high speed deliveries. Most major hospitals already have a helipad, yet I don't see the NHS taking advantage of them for drone deliveries. By drone here I'm not talk about DJI Phantom, more like massive industrial sized drones capable of speeds of hundreds of miles an hour and carrying 100kg, 100s of miles. With such a load capacity, a human body could even be put in a protective cocoon and flown to another hospital if some emergency treatment was needed.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Here in the UK we don't have the remote locations, at least very few"

      And fewer still in a T shape between Reading,Oxford, Coventry and Cambridge.

      "With such a load capacity, a human body could even be put in a protective cocoon and flown to another hospital if some emergency treatment was needed."

      And when the medically unattended passenger is DoA it'll be a bit of a problem determining place of death.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        I was wondering if the primary purpose of the Oxford - Milton Keynes - Cambridge route, was to connect the Radcliffe, MK and Addenbrookes hospitals - primarily for organ and other urgent medical transfers.

        Obviously, it only needs the corridor to be correctly defined for these to be within the "SKyway" and thus avoid the "The off-Skyway last mile of a drone's trip".

        1. midgepad Bronze badge

          Helicopter medevacs?

          Apart from, large Tallis buildings not being the obvious best occupants of an air route, don't they all have helicopters flying in and out occasionally and at rather short notice?

          Presents interesting conflicts to control and deconstruct that.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Helicopter medevacs?

            The trouble is coming up with reasonable use cases for this specific corridor.

            As whilst this is a scaled up testbed, it does need a reasonable amount of traffic to work on.

            Another potential user is Amazon - with all their warehousing at Milton Keynes. But then if that was the case, they would probably be mentioned as being an investor in the project.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        > determining place of death.

        They'll do what the airlines do. People never die midflight, it makes the paperwork too complicated. They only die once the plane has landed.

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          That sounds surprising close to Shrodinger's cat.

        2. Andytug

          Same as Royal Palaces (including Parliament)

          Anyone who dies in a Royal palace is enititled to a State Funeral, so no one is declared dead until outside the palace in question. Thus only monarchs die in palaces...

      3. Robert Helpmann??

        And when the medically unattended passenger is DoA it'll be a bit of a problem determining place of death.

        I should think vitals would be monitored and logged as would location as the "delivery" progressed. This should be as simple as corelating two logs. I can only hope the human delivery compartments will look like giant pizza boxes and the tracking app will be licensed from Dominos.

    2. Wally Dug

      "Here in the UK we don't have the remote locations, at least very few"

      Actually, there are lots of remote locations in Scotland (and I expect England, Wales and Northern Ireland, too) and drones have been used recently in Scotland for medical supplies including "coronavirus test kits and samples, medicines and equipment between three hospitals and a medical practice" (

      1. jake Silver badge

        There is only one remote location in the British Isles.

        That would be the lovely Rockall.

        There are very few places I would even consider rural.

        1. Little Mouse Silver badge

          Re: There is only one remote location in the British Isles.

          Otherwise known as Haines Island.

          Raises a glass ----->.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Think about the children

        'What about the essential vaccines?' is the 'Think about the children' for autonomous drone delivery. A motorbike can do Reading to Oxford in 20 minutes or so (it was late at night, pre speed camera, and I was a young idiot). And I imagine a trained pigeon would be as quick, and cheaper, than a drone.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        There are indeed. And this trial doesn't cover any of them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The fact most hospitals have a helipad and already have regular visits from air ambulances is exactly why drones don't go there. The helipad makes the airspace around the hospital restricted and not legal for drones to enter. Removing that restriction and classifying it for automated drones would prevent helicopters from landing there.

      There is already significant use of networks of private pilots for transporting urgent items (via ambulance to the nearest GA airfield, via air to the destination airfield, then via ambulance to the destination hospital) such as organs and blood (especially between the mainland UK and northern Ireland, the isle of wight, isle of Man etc) in their own time and at their own cost (similar to the bloodbikes scheme that uses motorcycles for the same thing).

      At the moment, drones are not smart enough to avoid conflicting with the much more useful helicopters that land there, so the helicopters win. Part of the aim of this project is to scale up technology that may one day help with that deconfliction and help make the drones smarter.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        So either these drones are capable of detecting and avoiding GA aircraft in that corridor, or we're going to have a chunk of forbidden airspace chopping the country in half.

        Another way of requiring 'voluntary' electronic conspicuity for GA?

        1. Jan 0

          Presumably, the corridor can be crossed by other corridors if those corridors occupy different altitudes.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Oh yes; the general situation is that more controlled airspace is higher up. So you can, for example, fly under the controlled airspace around an airport, except in its immediate vicinity where the control goes to ground level.

            But generally, class G runs from ground to 10,000 feet, or higher in some locations, and that's where GA flies VFR. I think if the drones are flying commercial patterns with defined high altitude corridors and between terminal controlled locations, there shouldn't be an issue - except when they are forced to descend out of it for e.g. an emergency descent.

            The point being that I'm unsure whether an autonomous drone, or even a remotely controlled one, can fly VFR.

            I guess I'll have a better opinion - I could be concerned over nothing - when I get more info on this.

      2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Why can't air traffic control (aka time-division multiplexing) handle this ?

    4. Sampler

      As an Australian I was surprised to here we do..

  5. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    I'm certain

    that is is done with the best of intentions...

  6. jake Silver badge

    AC/DC? Lemmy would be appalled ...

    ... that's an Aussie group. Shirley it would be the UK's own Motörhead and "Ace of Spades".

    "You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools ... " —Lemmy. Clarke, Taylor '80

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: AC/DC? Lemmy would be appalled ...

      Depends on what they are delivering. Might be "Orgasmatron"

  7. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Keep the drones away from our four-legged friemds though...............

    They’ve now got patrol dogs who are barking, which helps deter drones

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Big Brother

    (yet another) possible problem

    How will this system handle a flock of geese?

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: (yet another) possible problem


  9. Roger Greenwood

    "director of drones"

    I thought that was my job? Seems like it sometimes..... :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "director of drones"

      please, stop droning!

  10. Jaybus


    A Skyway controlled and operated by AI drones....hmmm...will it be centrally operated by Skynet?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beneath the skyway....


    Oh god not another... NEEEEEEEEEEE

    Another what?







    Oh thank fuck it's gone.


  12. hatti

    Element 5

    Corben Dallas will be very pleased I'm sure, big bada boom.

  13. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Trial run

    They found a willing volunteer to take part in the inaugural run

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