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Feb 15, 2019

PwC UK drones lead Elaine Whyte, Dedrone’s Amit Samani and Tris Dyson of Nesta discuss the economic and social potential of drones and whether public anxieties might be allayed through regulation and control by public authorities. 

PwC has estimated that the UK drone market could be worth £42bn by 2030 and deliver productivity gains worth £16bn. The technology is already enabling huge savings on inspection and surveillance with people-free delivery solutions just around the corner. Public good has been demonstrated in use by the emergency and rescue services and in the delivery of medical supplies to remote locations.

On the other hand, memories of the Gatwick Airport shutdown are fresh, and people are justifiably anxious. Data collection by Dedrone around UK airfields confirms that a significant amount of illegal activity is going on.

Public anxiety has slowed or halted other technologies in their early days (think wind farms and GM foods), so the drone industry is looking to regulation and other means to increase public confidence.

How local authorities might respond - by being part of the management of ‘the space up to 400 feet off the ground’ is discussed, and reference made to Nesta’s ongoing Flying High programme which in its first phase worked with councils in Bradford, London, Preston, Southampton and the West Midlands to develop visions for a future with drones.