Contact Us
Contact Us

Announcement, News

Drone project takes off with share of £30 million UK Government grant

September 8, 2021

The initial use case for the autonomous drone technology, as part of this discovery work, will be to support the increasing drone cargo market.

  • Cirium and a prestigious consortium has successfully launched a project funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge programme
  • This forward-thinking project aims to successfully integrate drones alongside passenger aircraft at UK airports
  • It will deliver both a reduction in carbon emissions and economic opportunities in the UK

LONDON, UK, September 8, 2021: An ambitious research and development project backed by Cirium, the global aviation analytics company, has received financial funding from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The project is aimed at enabling the use of commercial drones at airports alongside traditional passenger aircraft.

The initial use case for the autonomous drone technology, as part of this discovery work, will be to support the increasing drone cargo market.

It will also develop integration plans for the safe and efficient use of cargo drones in UK airspace, and to transport items, such as medical supplies or aircraft spare parts.

Cirium is leading the project, which is one of over 40 in the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Flight Challenge programme. The project has a multi-disciplined consortium in UTM solutions including; Anra Technologies, Neuron Innovations, Distributed Avionics, University of Southampton and Connected Places Catapult.

The project is in phase two of the Challenge, receiving a share of a £30 million grant awarded by the UK government. Across all the Future Flight Challenge phases, the funding for all the projects will total around £125 million.

These grants are awarded to the most forward-thinking teams and projects which deliver on safeguarding the UK’s advantage in Research and Development (R&D) in aviation, the reduction of aviation emissions and the creation of economic opportunities from new forms of air mobility.

Together with a consortium of industry leaders in the Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) space, Cirium will research and prototype the use of large drone technology to transport cargo across the UK’s vast network of airfields point-to-point using existing airport infrastructure. 

Alex Brooker, Cirium Senior Director Strategy, said: “Using automated drones to deliver cargo will create new economically viable route opportunities in the UK’s domestic air freight market, ensuring time-sensitive, high-value goods can be transported to anywhere in the country faster than ever before and with a lower carbon footprint.

“The UK has a network of over 150 airfields, and most places in the UK are within 20 miles of their nearest micro-hub. Many of these airports are under-utilized with untapped capacity we can help exploit.

“With funding from the UK government, we will seek to introduce routine drone operations between airports, taking vehicles off the roads, while generating economic growth at the same time.”

Business Minister Paul Scully, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “This exciting innovation from Cirium, backed by £30 million government funding, will allow cargo drones to fly safely and efficiently within UK airspace, delivering anything from spare parts to medical supplies.

“By replacing road traffic with emissions free drones, this scheme showcases the UK at the cutting edge of the emerging clean flight technologies that will help us build back greener and end our contribution to climate change by 2050.”

Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director, said: “There is great potential to use existing infrastructure and airfields to improve transport connections for people, goods and services across the UK.

“At Future Flight we’re aiming to start the third revolution in aviation and projects like ATOMICUS are leading the way in helping us deliver the aviation system of the future.”

Gary Cutts, Future Flight Challenge Director

The consortium will be working closely with the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers (GATCO), the Welsh Government and Aerospace Wales to develop and demonstrate the prototypes.

This involves both Cardiff and St. Athan airports and will also address some of the local geographical and economic challenges faced in the region. It will especially unlock cost savings and productivity gains in the logistics market given the accessibility of these airports.

Follow Cirium updates via LinkedIn and Twitter. Cirium media enquiries.

Editor’s notes:

The project is known as ATOMICUS (Advanced Traffic Organization and Management of Intelligent Cargo Unmanned Systems).

The original bid for the project was led by Snowflake Software and since, the company was acquired by Cirium in March 2020.

About Cirium

Cirium brings together powerful data and analytics to keep the world moving. Delivering insight, built from decades of experience in the sector, enabling travel companies, aircraft manufacturers, airports, airlines and financial institutions, among others, to make logical and informed decisions which shape the future of travel, growing revenues and enhancing customer experiences. Cirium is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX.

About ANRA Technologies

ANRA Technologies is a leading international provider of end-to-end drone operations and traffic management solutions for uncrewed system operators and airspace managers. ANRA offers intelligent and modular traffic management software capabilities as part of the SmartSkies family for UAS Traffic Management (UTM), U-space, and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) operations. For enterprise-class drone fleet operations solution we offer SmartSkies MissionManager, for delivery solutions we offer SmartSkies DELIVERY, and for risk assessments we offer SmartSkies SORA.  Learn more by visiting

About Distributed Avionics

Distributed Avionics specialise in high reliability flight control systems for a wide range of uncrewed aerial vehicles, providing cost-effective solutions for autonomous operations. DA’s Masterless™ Flight Control system coupled with a cloud-based command and control capability have enabled current and next generation UAVs to successfully integrate their operations within UK airspace in a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capacity.

Connected Places Catapult

Connected Places Catapult is the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport, and places. It provides impartial ‘innovation as a service’ for public bodies, businesses, and infrastructure providers to catalyse step-change improvements in the way people live, work and travel. It connects businesses and public sector leaders to cutting-edge research to spark innovation and grow new markets.

Learn more by visiting

Neuron Innovations

Neuron Innovations is bringing aviation safety to the forefront of the drone industry by lowering costs and helping to integrate flying objects. Using data fusion technology to build a mesh network, aviation surveillance as a service can help drones seamlessly integrate into existing airspace. Our mission is to create a fully integrated aviation surveillance

About University of Southampton (Soton UAV)

Soton UAV is a research team consisting of academics, staff, post-graduate researchers and students based at the University of Southampton in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences’ Computational Engineering Group. The team specialise in manufacturing and operating Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for research purposes. Many of the systems operated make use of cutting-edge design methods, state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques and novel applications of technology.

Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers (GATCO)

GATCO is a UK-wide professional organisation representing over 1,600 civil and military air traffic controllers and Air Traffic Management (ATM) professionals. GATCO is the UK member of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) and is actively involved in the work of IFATCA within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Single European Sky (SES). GATCO also collaborates with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and other UK-based aviation organisations. Learn more by visiting

RELX logo