Flying High Challenge

UK cities now have a unique opportunity to shape how we use drones for good.

What is the Flying High Challenge?

Flying High is a collaborative engagement with cities, technologists and researchers, regulators, government, public services and citizens to shape the future of urban drone use in the UK to meet local needs. Following a research and city engagement phase, the programme is now focused on developing innovation challenges, urban demonstrators and stakeholder and public engagement.

Read about our findings from Phase 1.

Drone technology is advancing rapidly. UK cities now have a unique opportunity to shape this disruptive technology, in order to maximise the economic and social benefits it could bring, whilst ensuring safety.

Led by cities, Flying High aims to position the UK as a global leader in shaping drone systems that place people’s needs first.

What are we doing?

Run by Nesta Challenges, in partnership with Innovate UK, Flying High is the first programme of its kind to convene city leaders, regulators, public services, businesses and industry around the future of drones in cities.

The first phase comprised a nine-month research and engagement process, working with five city-regions across the UK (Bradford, London, Preston, Southampton and the West Midland) to develop visions for the future of drones and assess technical feasibility and economic and social impact of urban drone applications. The outputs of this phase, which also included mapping the UK drone industry and exploring the systemic requirements for integrating drones in cities, are summarised in the Flying High Report.

The planned next phase of the programme will be to design a series of innovation challenges and develop test beds to pioneer safe, sustainable drone systems that deliver the benefits for cities and citizens outlined in the first phase.

The challenge objectives include:

  • Shape city plans on the future of drones in UK cities, exploring specific applications of drones within cities and hazardous environments.
  • Identify and address key complexities such as technology, infrastructure, law, regulations, safety and privacy.
  • Detail technical and economic plans that unlock market opportunity through regulatory testbeds, open innovation technology challenges and live, real-world demonstrations.

The background

Over the past nine months, we have engaged widely with cities across the UK, central government bodies, the CAA, research and technical bodies and a range of other stakeholders to design this programme. There are four key themes underlying Flying High:


​Drone technology is advancing rapidly with the potential to perform critical services in everyday city life – from transporting urgent medical supplies to bridge inspection and repair.

Cities and people

​Cities and people must be at the centre of shaping potential uses for drones and how they may integrate sustainably into communities.

Potential impact

​Drone systems have the potential to advance cities’ social, economic, transport, environmental and innovation plans.

Integration challenges

​Drone systems must integrate sustainably and safely within cities and hazardous environments taking into account real-world conditions.