IN-DEPTH: Data shows drone industry could add £42bn to UK economy

Drone technology has the potential to increase UK GDP by as much as £42 billion — the equivalent of 2% — by 2030, according to research into the growth potential of the industry.

A report by PwC suggests that more than 76,000 drones will be in use across UK skies by 2030 and 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 £7.7 billion. The report suggests 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 commercial drones, with a potential net saving of £4.8 billion by 2030.

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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.

“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, comments Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC.

“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 kick-start 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.”

Advancements in UK drone regulations will only help the market’s cause, although 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, says Whyte.

“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,” she concludes.

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Alex Douglas

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