Preston has been chosen as one of only five drone technology test centres across the UK after a successful bid.
The Lancashire city beat off stiff competition from a third of the UK’s cities to be selected and is the North West’s only representative on the Flying High Challenge programme.
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Preston City Council joined forces to lead the successful application, run by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre in partnership with Innovate UK.
Over the next five months, the institutions will work with national drone experts to host a range of events for local companies and work on a strategy to see how drones can be used in the future to respond to a wide variety of challenges.
The other cities and city regions chosen were: Bradford, London, Southampton and the West Midlands.
Dr Darren Ansell, UCLan aerospace engineering lead, said: “The Flying High City challenge is an important opportunity for Preston to develop a vision for the integration of drone systems, building upon its history of aerospace innovation.
“This recognition on a national scale is fantastic; it is putting Preston’s name up in lights and will open doors at the very top levels of the industry.”
Derek Whyte, assistant chief executive of Preston City Council, added: “Given the importance of aerospace in the area, it is vital that Preston takes a lead on identifying drone opportunities.
“Preston offers a manageable testing ground for strategy development, yet is of sufficient size and complexity to be able to develop solutions that can be scaled-up elsewhere.”
Preston has been at the forefront of identifying and developing civic drone applications for several years, evident through the work of UCLan’s Civic Drone Centre, which was established in 2014 with a £250,000 investment.
The not-for-profit centre is an important component of UCLan’s new £32m Engineering Innovation Centre, which will be open in the heart of Preston City Centre in early 2019.