Drones could add £42 billion to UK GDP by 2030


Drone technology has the potential to increase UK GDP by £42 billion (or 2%) by 2030, according to new research published by PwC this morning.

The research estimates there will be more than 76,000 drones1 in use across UK skies by 2030. More than a third of these (36%) could be utilised by the public sector (including in areas such as defence, health and education).

There are significant opportunities for economic gains across all sectors, but the GDP uplift generated by drones is forecast to have the largest impact on the wholesale and retail trade sector with an increase of 2.5%, amounting to around £7.7bn.

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GDP uplift generated by drones by sector

Sector Potential GDP increase Percentage impact
Agriculture, Mining, Gas and Electricity £1.1bn 1.1%
Construction and Manufacturing £8.6bn 1.6%
Wholesale, Retail Trade, Accommodation and Food Services £7.7bn 2.5%
Transport and Logistics £1.2bn 1.5%
Technology, Media and Telecoms £1.2bn 2.1%
Finance, Insurance, Professional Services and Administrative Services £10.4bn 1.6%
Public Sector, Defence, Health, Education, and other services2 £11.4bn 2.3%

The report claims that drone technology could help the UK achieve up to £16 billion in net cost savings by 2030 through increased productivity. The technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sector stands to save the most by using drones, with a potential net saving of £4.8bn by 2030.

Across the UK PwC estimates there will be 628,000 people working in the drone economy by 2030.

New types of jobs to develop, build, operate and regulate drones will be needed, as changes in productivity and consumer demand resulting from drone usage create jobs.

Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, commented: “Drones have the potential to offer a powerful new perspective for businesses across a variety of industries, delivering both productivity benefits and increased value from the data they collect. The UK has the opportunity to be at the leading edge of exploiting this emerging technology, and now is the time for investments to be made in developing the use cases and trial projects needed to kickstart our drone industry.

“I envisage that the advantages of drone technology will be well established within the decade – not only for business purposes, but also for helping to protect our society, for example, through being used by the emergency services. There is a need for current UK drone regulation to advance to see the estimations in our report become a reality, but it’s positive to see the Government already taking proactive steps to address this with the draft Drones Bill.

“In order to realise the full potential from drones, the immediate focus must be on developing society’s confidence in the technology to help drive acceptance and increase adoption. While drones are often currently viewed as more of a toy, by combining this emerging technology with the right business understanding and human insight there is a huge opportunity to help solve some of business and society’s most important problems.”

Jonathan Gillham, economics director at PwC, believes that drones could spark significant improvements in the UK economy.

“The rise in GDP and job creation from drones uptake are expected to be substantial, but productivity is likely to see the greatest gains. By automating routine tasks, improving effectiveness, safety and reducing costs, drones will free up people to focus on higher-value work.”

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Andrew Seymour

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