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UKRI launches £30m call for flying taxis and drone deliveries

Future flight funding announced alongside call for research to tackle Covid-19 in low-income countries

UK Research and Innovation has launched a £30 million funding call aimed at developing systems and technology to support the use of electric and autonomous flying vehicles.

The funder says vehicles could include flying taxis, drones delivering medical supplies, and vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Smaller businesses can apply for between £150,000 and £500,000, whereas larger consortia can get between £500,000 and £10m per project, funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s future flight challenge.

“To achieve our goal of new air vehicles being used in a widespread, safe way, we need to tackle challenges around planning, regulation, air traffic control, airports, artificial intelligence and a whole range of other areas,” said future flight challenge director Gary Cutts. “I hope [organisations] will rise to this challenge and help create the aviation system of the future, enabling the UK to build, use and export new, greener ways of flying.”

Meanwhile, UKRI and the National Institute for Health Research have launched a joint call for research aimed at tackling Covid-19 in low-and-middle-income countries.

The call for 18-month, £1m projects will focus on four priority topics highlighted by the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 global research roadmap: epidemiology; clinical management; infection prevention and control; and health system responses.

This includes projects investigating indirect consequences of the pandemic on issues such as mental health, domestic violence and maternal and neonatal health, the two funders said on 18 May.

“This important call for research will directly benefit people living in low-and-middle-income countries,” said NIHR co-lead Chris Whitty. “The virus presents different challenges in different settings, so research is needed across these settings. Unless we address Covid-19 globally, we will not reduce it to a manageable level as a global public health issue.”