Drones predicted to give British economy a £42bn lift by 2030

Wider use of unmanned aerial vehicles will create jobs and boost GDP by 2%, says report.

Using drones to transform working practices could boost Britain’s economy by £42bn by 2030, research claims.

Increased use of drones, in sectors from construction or defence to energy or logistics, will employ hundreds of thousands of people and lift GDP by almost 2%, according to a report by accountants PwC.

While pilots and police have often viewed drones as a problem, the report predicts 76,000 unmanned aerial vehicles will be in UK skies by the end of the next decade for commercial or public use, saving billions in efficiencies.

It says many existing jobs will go, with drones able to quickly map, inspect or transport in places that are difficult for people to reach. Drones are likely to replace posts from stock controllers to helicopter pilots as they allow speedier visual access of everything from giant warehouses to power lines.

Already used widely in utilities to inspect infrastructure, drones are likely to replace expensive helicopter use in land surveys, the report says, while oil rig inspections have become safer and cheaper using the devices. Remote crop spraying could extend in agriculture to drone monitoring with thermal cameras, to give more data on plant health and irrigation than is visible to the human eye.

PwC predicts cost savings of £16bn annually through their use and estimates that in the long run there will be 628,000 people working in the drone economy, potentially in more highly skilled jobs overall, including building and programming the devices.

Elaine Whyte, of 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.

“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.”

Read more