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UK: Staffordshire County growing tech hub for drones

By Chris Stonor

The UK county of Staffordshire in the West Midlands with a population of close on 880,000 is becoming a tech hub for drones, reports

For example, organisations Staffordshire Connected and Intelligent Mobility Innovation Accelerator (SCIMIA) recently formed a project, available to SMEs, through Staffordshire University’s Innovation enterprise Zone.

IDU Group is among the first companies to be accepted onto the project which has secured UKP986,000 from Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund 2014 to 2020.

Kevin Duckers

Company Founder, Kevin Duckers, who previously served with the Staffordshire Regiment and has extensive experience of logistics working for military organisations, said, “By 2040, we envisage that a third of all deliveries will be by drone. Currently the biggest problem is the same as with all deliveries – last mile inefficiencies and getting into the hands of the consumer, which does impact on speed and cost.”

He continued, “The project will look at the bridging mechanism by which we connect the goods with the consumer in a safe and secure way. Smartbox is a key component in our end to end delivery networks which uses drone capabilities, an autonomous home mailbox and integrated tracking.”

Duckers added, “It is early days but by tapping into the university’s digital expertise, we are hoping Staffordshire and the West Midlands will be leading the UK in making drone delivery accessible to all.”

Each SME partnership receives up to 12 months of bespoke support that includes a student or graduate to support the development of a new product or service plus access to a dedicated academic, the university’s specialist facilities and technical support.

Silverdale based Green4logistics is also partnering with the university on the scheme. The specialist removals company, founded by Staffordshire University internet commerce and business graduate, Darren Thomas, plans to offer a new bulky items removal and recycling service to households and businesses.

Business operations director Craig Hughes, explained, “The disposal of bulky household items is a problem everywhere. This project will involve designing a web app for consumers that works with our commercial diary to identify time slots to suit the customer.”

He continued, “Pricing will be fixed depending on the item and number of items and the app will work with our existing systems to detect when we have a vehicle in the area and how we can best utilise our workers during dead time.”

Conscious of its carbon footprint, the company will also be recycling the items wherever possible that involves establishing a new network of recycling centres and charities.

Marek Hornak, head of employer partnerships and enterprise, commented, “We are delighted to be welcoming on board our first partnerships. Intelligent mobility is an exciting market where our research, expertise and student base can add significant value to Staffordshire SMEs when developing new innovative products or services through knowledge exchange.”

Adding, “We will use our expertise in artificial intelligence, internet of things, big data, cloud computing, manufacturing, engineering, electronics and creative design to boost innovation in this area.”

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