Drones could give UK economy a lift during the next decade

30th May 2018
Joe Bush

While some companies and organisations are perhaps feeling a little apprehensive in the lead up to Brexit, new research has suggested that the country’s economy could receive a huge boost due to the cost saving potential behind the use of drones and how they can transform working practices.

Drones have now advanced far beyond just being a teenager’s plaything over the last few years, and potential use cases for the technology knows no bounds – from agriculture and construction to defence and law enforcement.

A report from PwC, titled ‘Skies Without Limits’, has revealed that by 2030, the predicted 76,000 commercial and public use drones that will fill our skies could potentially boost the economy by £42bn. The efficiencies that drones provide will inevitably mean that many existing jobs will disappear – for example oil rig inspections and land surveys will no longer have to be conducted by helicopter – an expensive process both in terms of the vehicle and pilot.

Using a drone for tasks like these are also safer and less time consuming, both in terms of the time it takes a drone to get into the air (potentially vital in providing visual access to emergency situations and accidents), and the time it takes to train pilots.

The report suggests that these potential job loses will be mitigated by the 600,000 plus highly skilled jobs that will be created by the growth in the industry. However, PwC also highlighted in the report that there still needs to be further advances in drone regulation and consumer confidence for the potential to be realised.

Steve Jennings, PwC’s UK energy leader, said: “By automating routine tasks, improving effectiveness, safety and reducing costs, drones will free up people to focus on higher-value work.”

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

Commenting on the report, Robert Garbett's CEO of Drone Major and Chairman of the BSI Committee on Drone Standards, commented: “The recent PwC report into the impact of the drone industry on the UK’s economy, jobs, productivity and quality of life is both positive and welcome but what is more exciting is that this is just a small fragment of the wider drone picture. What many will not realise, but what is becoming widely accepted, is that the drone industry is shifting away from being an air focussed industry to one which is breaking down traditional environmental barriers to give rise to a new understanding of the term 'drone'.

“As technology advances in this field, we are witness to the emergence of a new wave of hybrid drone systems which are able to operate across different environments from ground vehicles that can fly to aircraft which can dive into the sea, monitor and inspect underwater and then move out of the water to become airborne again.  Indeed, there are now systems available which are integrated surface (marine), underwater and air drone systems combined, such as those being developed by Marine Advanced Research, an American company which embraces the concept of the 'Hybrid' drone system.”

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