Drone Tech Is The UK's Next Big Business Opportunity

Last updated: 13 June 2023 Views: 3827
drone tech is the UKs next big business

From secret military projects to Christmas stocking fillers, the arrival of drones over the past decade has been revolutionary. Now a new study suggests that both the creation and wider deployment of drones could have a similar effect on UK businesses, boosting the economy by as much as £42 billion in just 12 years.

The report by accountancy firm PwC predicts that 76,000 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) will have taken to the skies by 2030. Companies could save £16bn annually through efficiency savings, boosting the UK economy by 2% of its present value.

Drones would potentially replace many service positions, including safety, monitoring and inspection roles in numerous industries. Structures and locales such as oil rigs, factories and farmland could be inspected and analysed far more quickly, cheaply and safely than by helicopter or manual inspection.

However, the operation and construction of these drones would also create new job opportunities. PwC predict that as many as 628,000 people will eventually work in the drone industry, with a significant proportion working in new, high skilled positions.

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Drones have already been deployed in many industries to great effect. Drone photography has become a staple for photographers, videographers, estate agents, and other industries which benefit from a bird’s eye view. They have also been adopted en masse by UK police, predominantly for search and rescue operations.

Drones are also an increasingly important tool for facilities managers. Aerial inspection offers a cheaper and easier way to assess rooftops, high ceilings and building facades, recording video and even producing 3D maps of a site. Drones can be used as mobile security cameras, and have even been deployed for disaster management, helping to locate, alert and guide people in the event of an emergency.

Drones offer numerous advantages over human workers for observation and analysis. They can easily reach areas that are difficult or dangerous to access, transmitting live video and other data feeds to a controller on the ground. They can also carry advanced equipment such as thermal imaging cameras to assess environmental conditions or damage.

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Advances may bolster this already impressive skillset. Drones have already been used to dust crops, and advances in robotics could potentially allow them to carry out more tasks. It is not unreasonable to envisage a near future in which drones fly autonomously, carrying out tasks and making repairs without human intervention.

While drone technology has advanced significantly in a short period of time, there remain some regulatory hurdles. Concerns over drone safety, particularly their use around airports, have led to a recent tightening of guidelines. Owners of drones heavier than 250g are also required to register with the government, use drone safety apps, and take an appropriate safety course.

Businesses developing drone technology in the UK can also benefit from the country’s generous R&D tax breaks. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can qualify for a 230% deduction on qualifying costs, as well as a 14.5% credit on any losses incurred. Large companies meanwhile can apply for a 12% credit on their qualifying R&D expenditure.

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