SOUTHAMPTON has been named as one of the new drone capitals of the country.

The city is one of five areas in the UK to take part in groundbreaking research into the aerial technology.

It means in just two years, residents could see the devices flying round the city carrying out tasks which will benefit the public.

This could include drones exploring hazardous areas, delivering emergency medical supplies or even helping to find potholes.

Currently companies like Amazon are testing drones to be used for delivery services.

But now, civic chiefs, scientists, aviation experts and government officials will team up for a £600,000 project to explore how the devices can be used to provide public services in built-up areas.

Named the Flying High Challenge, the scheme will look at public attitudes towards drones, environmental impact, as well as drone safety in complex urban locations.

And by 2020, residents could see the findings in action.

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “This is an exciting project that puts Southampton at the forefront of research into how drone technology could work in every day life.

“We won’t suddenly see an increase in drone traffic.

“The project is about exploring how drone technology could be introduced safely and for the benefit of all.

“This will put us at the front of the queue to benefit as the use of drones becomes more commonplace in the future.”

The scheme is run by innovation charity Nesta, who has organised the scheme through its Challenge Prize Centre.

It will be run in conjunction with the government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

The organisations will focus on issues such as how drones can be used to inspect buildings and infrastructure for maintenance.

This could include dealing with hazardous environments such as tall buildings, electricity pylons or radioactive material.

The project will also look at how drones could play a role in finding cracks in bridges, delivering medical supplies, or generating electricity.

One of the challenges will involve discussing current laws and regulations involving drones, which currently cannot be flown within 150 metres of a built-up area.

They must also be kept in sight and at least 50 metres away from another person, a vehicle or a building.

In Southampton, the city council will team up with the University of Southampton.

The focus will be on the port, with experts hoping drones could be used to test water and air quality, or even police the surrounding waters.

Working with the partner cities, which include London and Bradford, the group will develop a vision over the next five months.

Early tests could begin as early as 2020, it is hoped.

Nishita Dewan, from Flying High Challenge, said: “We want to co-create a solution that understands the needs of local people.”