UK economy droning on

BY Richard Summerfield

The UK economy could increase by £42bn, or 2 percent, by 2030, according to a new report from PwC. This growth will be built on the increased availability and commercial applications of ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ – drones.

The report, ‘Skies without Limits’, claims that there could be 76,000 drones operating in the UK by 2030 and that around 36 percent could be used in public sectors, including defence, health and education. The number of jobs in the drone economy could be around 628,000.

One of the biggest advantages of drone use in the economy will be their ability to generate cost savings. The UK’s technology, media and telecoms industry could record cost savings of around £4.8bn by 2030, according to the report. Productivity would also benefit from greater drone usage. Cost reductions and efficiency improvements could increase so-called ‘multi-factor’ productivity by 3.2 percent, boosting GDP uplifts across multiple sectors, including the public sector, which could increase by £11.4bn, the construction and manufacturing sector (£8.6bn) and the wholesale, retail trade and food services space (£7.7bn).

Within the offshore industry, for example, the report says using drones to inspect a live flare stack on a North Sea oil platform could save £4m a day, compared to shutting the asset down for traditional methods.

Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, said: “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.”

“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," said Jonathan Gillham, economics director at PwC. “By automating routine tasks, improving effectiveness, safety and reducing costs, drones will free up people to focus on higher-value work.”

The government is taking steps to help usher in the next phase of the drone economy, with a draft drones bill expected to be published this spring. Baroness Sugg, Aviation Minister said: “PwC’s research demonstrates the significant economic benefits that drone technology can bring to the UK. And they are already improving people’s lives – helping the emergency services and keeping key national infrastructure like rail lines and power stations safe. Excitingly this is just the beginning, which is why Government is doing everything possible to harness the huge future potential through our Industrial Strategy and Drones Bill.”

Report: Skies without Limits

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