Britain in line for £42bn drone dividend by 2030

Drones could boost Britain's economy to the tune of £42 billion by 2030 as the airborne devices are increasingly used for commercial activity, a report says.

According to research carried out by accountancy giant PwC, there will be more than 76,000 drones in use across UK skies by the end of the next decade.

More than a third of these could be utilised by the public sector, including in areas such as defence, health and education, PwC's report argues.

The biggest boost to output is forecast to come from the wholesale and retail trade sector, although industries such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing will also benefit.

Elaine Whyte, PwC's "drones leader", 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.

"The UK has the opportunity to be at the leading edge of exploiting this emerging technology, and now is the time for investments to be made in developing the use cases and trial projects needed to kickstart our drone industry.

"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."

PwC's report also found that drone technology could help the UK achieve up to £16 billion in net cost savings by 2030 through increased productivity.

The technology, media and telecoms sector stands to save the most by using drones, with a potential net saving of £4.8 billion by 2030.

PwC estimates there will be 628,000 people working in the drone economy by 2030, undertaking jobs such as developing, building, operating and regulating the devices.

Jonathan Gillham, economics director at PwC, added: "Drones could spark significant improvements in the UK economy.

"The rise in GDP and job creation from drones uptake are expected to be substantial, but productivity is likely to see the greatest gains.

"By automating routine tasks, improving effectiveness, safety and reducing costs, drones will free up people to focus on higher-value work."