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UK Government research shows drone technology can boost economy and benefit society

The results of a new study from UK Research and Innovation have today been released, with analysis suggesting that in the majority of use cases there are significant potential benefits associated with the use of drone and advanced air mobility technologies.

Using drones and electric aircraft – from remote maintenance to connecting people with mail, medicine and each other – could bring significant potential benefits to the UK economy, according to a new report published today.

Delivery by drone is set to become a new ‘normal’.

Analysis in the Future Flight Challenge Socio-economic study found that switching to these new technologies could be up to 48% cheaper, deliver faster journey times and improve worker safety when compared to current methods.

The study comes after Drone Defence were recently awarded a Future Flight grant, to develop drone detection technology as part of UK Government’s ‘Future Flight Challenge’.

To support the widespread and safe use of new aviation technologies, UK Research and Innovation’s Future Flight Challenge wanted to understand the potential costs and benefits of different applications.

The Future Flight Challenge asked PwC to undertake a socio-economic study that could be used to assess six different use cases which represent potentially valuable applications of new aviation technologies:

  • Using a drone to inspect a 220km powerline in Scotland which at one point runs more than 2,500ft above sea level rather than sending a two-person team.
  • Delivering mail from Inverness to Kirkwall in Scotland by cargo drone instead of using a normal cargo plane.
  • Using a drone to deliver medicine from a pharmacy direct to patient homes instead of using a car.
  • Using a battery powered sub-regional air taxi instead of the train to travel between York and Preston.
  • Using a battery powered air mobility vehicle to travel 25km in a rural area instead of using a car.
  • Using a battery powered air mobility vehicle instead of a ridesharing service to travel 10km in a major city.

The study found that using drones to inspect powerlines, deliver mail and medicines could be up to 35% cheaper than by using current methods.

It also found people travelling from York to Preston could significantly benefit from having access to an electric aircraft, with cheaper fares and travel times potentially halved when compared to completing the journey by train.

“This new study from UK Government quite clearly demonstrates the huge potential and benefits of this exciting technology, whilst aligning with some of our own previous research in this field.”

“Safely integrating small autonomous vehicles into general airspace, whilst enabling drones to go beyond visual line of sight through monitored airspace, is crucial to the advancement of an industry set to become extremely valuable to the UK economy.”

“Everything we do is about enabling drone technology and demonstrating its potential. We are excited and honoured to be playing a key role in enabling a sustainable future in which drones change the way we view, interact with and move around our world.”

Richard Gill, Founder and CEO of Drone Defence

Looking ahead, the study could open the door for further analysis to consider the potential size of the market opportunity for each use case, and how sensitive this is to the potential evolution of the costs of the different technologies.

The study has highlighed that considerable opportunity exists for developments in aviation technologies to boost the UK economy and deliver wider societal benefits.

Drone technology has the potential to bring huge economic and societal benefits

“The analysis carried out by PwC has been vital in providing us with the evidence to help shape our funding decisions across a diverse range of projects. There is great potential to be had from these new aviation technologies and I hope that businesses in the sector will be encouraged by these results.”

Future Flight Challenge Director, Gary Cutts

You can read the full study on UK Research and Innovation’s website.