Drone Futures: How the UK can lead from the front

The drones industry is enjoying explosive growth supporting public services and enterprise across a range of sectors, but is chaffing at current regulatory restrictions.

The first techUK/DJI Drone Futures conference took place yesterday. The almost 100 attendees drawn from Government (both Whitehall and local), regulators, the House of lords, academia, Catapults, police and (of course) industry was indicative of the considerable interest in drones across many sectors.

Drones are taking their place alongside AI/Machine Learning/robotics, Cloud services, Blockchain, the Internet Of Things, immersive technologies and greater ubiquity of connectivity, as one of a handful of technologies defining our futures.

Elaine Whyte, PwC’s UK Drones Lead, highlighted that her new research report Skies without limits, suggests that drone technology has the potential to increase UK GDP by £42 billion (or 2%) by 2030.

Drones offer industry cost savings, safety improvements and productivity gains, often substantial in size such as where operators of oil rigs use drones to inspect live flares, where previously the asset would be shut down for inspection at a cost of around £4 million per day.

Being cheap, easily transportable, and quick to deploy, drones are being utilised in a wide range of professional circumstances where other options (e.g. helicopters) would be impractical or impossible. The range of professional applications is increasing all of the time: from emergency services to logistics, agriculture to maintenance of essential infrastructure. Drones have rapidly become essential for engineering and construction industries, and are now an essential tool for the oil and gas industry and Network Rail.

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