A NEW project could help Bradford become a world-leading hub for the emerging drone industry.

Earlier this year, Bradford Council was named as one of five areas that would become a “drone city” – which will test the technology and how it can be applied in a variety of different fields, from emergency responses to regeneration of the district’s mills.

The group behind the project, Nesta, has just published the findings from the first phase of the Flying High programme. It says Bradford could use drone technology to attract more high-tech businesses to the area, map out the district’s disused buildings to promote them for future development, and even become a vital part of how emergency services react to fires and floods.

A recent survey of Bradford residents found that 63 per cent of people supported Bradford becoming a test area for drone technology.

Bradford Council is currently working with Nesta and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service on exploring the benefits of drones and the work is set to massively expand in the coming year.

Looking at the regeneration aspects of drone technology, the report says: “In addition to attracting more high-skilled workers from outside Bradford, there is also an opportunity to use drones to inspire young people to pursue STEM subjects and improve skills in the district.”

It says that drones could be used to monitor air quality, water levels and pollution, and the report adds: “Drones can also interact with virtual reality to create fly-throughs and interactive videos, which could provide a strong advert to developers for Bradford’s many historic buildings, many of which are currently under-utilised.”


It gives the examples of Dalton Mills in Keighley, and empty buildings in North Parade as being areas where drones could be used to map the insides of the unused and hard-to-access buildings, and show off their potential to buyers.

But Nesta says one of the most important functions drones could have in Bradford is supporting fire and rescue services.

Bradford Council is working closely with the fire service on the project, and the report says drones could be flown to the scene of a blaze, arriving faster than firefighters. They would then relay images of the fire back to headquarters, allowing firefighters to see the scale and severity of a fire before they arrive at the scene. It gives examples of the Drummonds Mill fire and the Boxing Day floods of 2015 as incidents where drone technology could have helped emergency service response.

Bradford Fire Station in Leeds Road is suggested as a possible base for Bradford’s fire service drone fleet, and estimates that the drones could be sent out to 10 incidents a day.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Dave Walton said: “This project is about exploring possibilities and being forward thinking and we are pleased to have been asked to be a part of such innovative work.”