The Drone Economy

The Drone Economy

Developments in rotorcraft technology over the last 2 decades continue to facilitate expansion and diversification in the operational capabilities of the industry. The emergence of drone technology has been part of this rapid development. To date, we have seen drones work in unison with manned helicopters on SAR operations and the very same collaboration in volatile environments for scientific research, such as active and dormant volcanoes.

Whilst there is weight to the notion that drones are a natural evolution of the manned helicopter, it is far more likely that the industry will witness a rise in collaborative efforts between the two technologies. The UAV and Drone markets are set to shake-up the UK economy, with the possibility for innovation and entrepreneurialism booming in both. Multi-factor productivity could be set to rise by 3.2%, and GDP could be up by £42bn. With the potential to be one of the greatest disruptive technologies of a generation, we explore the driving forces behind this growth.

The report predicts 76,000 drones in UK skies by 2030, it is not just the consumer-sectors that are going to witness change. Insights into the market suggest a significant uptake of drone technology will also be noted in the oil & gas industry, namely because of the improved safety, increased efficiency and significant cost savings available.

For example, assets on off-shore rigs require to be shut-down prior to inspection, due to the obvious health and safety requirements when using human operators. Live inspection, using drones could save more than £4m a day. With approximately 184 offshore rigs in the North Sea at the end of 2017, this could account for almost three-quarters of a billion (GBP) in savings. Off-shore rigs still rely on manned helicopters to transport operators, and the concept of an unmanned rig is still unperceivable on many fronts. Much like scientific research in volatile environments, the collaboration of drone technology and manned helicopters could reduce health & safety risks and improve the operational efficiency of sectors like oil & gas.

One of the biggest areas impacted by the increased use of UAV/drone technology will occur in the way that commercial industries adapt their daily operations; drone technology has the capability to develop growth in newer sectors even further. If we take retail and food services as an example; we are increasingly seeing entrepreneurs use UAV technology to capitalise on the out of home delivery market. Software has increased accessibility – putting every shop and restaurant menu at the touch of a button. The introduction of drones into this market could exponentially improve and challenge this service, and make a significant contribution to the UK economy, with reports suggesting the adaption of delivery drones could result in an additional £7.7bn in UK GDP by 2030.

These are just two examples that demonstrate how businesses could introduce drone technology, and the potentially significant contribution this disruptive technology may have on the economy. For these technologies to disrupt to the fullest effect, it is now down to the industry’s pioneers and innovators to find ways to collaborate and integrate this emerging technology. What sectors do you think will benefit the most?

For more information and to read the full report, conducted by PwC here, visit

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