The UK is leading Europe in preparing for major changes in the way air traffic is handled in the future. Our national air traffic service does a fantastic job of keeping our skies safe and accommodating multiple users, including general, commercial and military aviation. But airspace management must take into account emerging and future airspace users, including drones. As a specialist venture capital investor in the space and drone industry, we see first-hand the huge potential benefits to public services and the economy that drones can offer, with a significantly growing number of organisations looking to increase their use of drones in their everyday operations.
During a speech at the Royal Aeronautical Society in December 2017, the CEO of the UK’s national air traffic service, NATS, said: “The UK’s current airspace was designed 50 years ago for aircraft such as VC10s, Vanguards and Tridents – aircraft that are now in museums. Since then we’ve seen 100-fold increase in aviation. We have to find new ways of managing air traffic which can cope with this increase in traffic and more.”
As the number of unmanned aircraft (e.g. drones) grow, increasing the visibility of drone flights is crucial to keeping our skies safe and realising the potential of the drone economy. The partnership announced yesterday between NATS and one of our portfolio companies, Altitude Angel, will drive the integration of drone flight and operational data with information and systems involved in managing manned aviation. Altitude Angel is building a world leading platform that offers the level of safety and accuracy needed to enable regulators and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to feel confident that drone operations can be integrated safely, not just into our skies, but into existing aviation systems.
We’re delighted to be backing Altitude Angel and look forward to seeing them create the skies of the future.