Drone delivery company Windracers has landed a third round of funding from the Future Flight challenge at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a government-backed organisation.
The London-based startup will use the investment to continue testing its drones and autopilot tech, as well as extending trials to more areas across Scotland.
Furthermore, it will work with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in developing regulations for autonomous flight.
UKRI’s Future Flight challenge, running since 2019 and closing in 2024, aims to accelerate innovation in the aviation sector. Recipients of its Phase 3 funding will share £73m. Windracers declined to disclose the funding amount.
Other projects backed by the Future Flight challenge include hydrogen-powered planes and airspace management systems.
“We are extremely proud to be among this world-class group of companies that are developing the technology and infrastructure for autonomous flight,” said Charles Scales, CEO, Windracers.
The drone company in May announced its plans to launch more than 50 new postal drone delivery routes, supported by 200 drones in partnership with the Royal Mail.
Its autonomous drones aim to reduce delivery times for mail, medical and aid deliveries. Windracer’s drones can fly 1000km, carry up to 100kg and have a wingspan of 10 metres.
Scales added: “The UK has a long history of innovation in aviation and boasts a highly competent and pragmatic regulatory authority.
“Combined with recognition and support from the UK government, we are very well placed to lead the industrialisation of drone technology worldwide.”
In collaboration with NERC British Antarctic Survey and Lancashire Fire and Rescue, Windracers is testing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to carry out research in the Antarctic and for combating fires in other remote areas of the world.
UK drone industry takes off
Trials for drone deliveries have been picking up pace across the UK. British urban air mobility startups are not yet transporting people above cities or shipping large volumes of goods. But they are vying for a slice of a market that Morgan Stanley estimates could be worth $1tn by 2040.
Investors have been steadily putting capital into these startups including Skyports, a drone infrastructure startup that last week closed its £21.4m Series B investment round.
Public funding is also being diverted into the sector. Last month, the government unveiled a £273m funding package for the UK’s aerospace industry for funding technology such as flying taxis, drones and hydrogen planes.