Tighter rules welcomed as drones tipped to boost the Uk economy by £42bn

PUBLISHED: 08:39 31 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:00 31 May 2018

The Aerial Academy director of training Elliott Corke using a drone. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Aerial Academy director of training Elliott Corke using a drone. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Drone use could be set to take off with predictions the technology could add £42bn to the UK economy – but it has also prompted government to legislate.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have already entered many sectors with agriculture and energy among the early adopters of aerial imaging. A new report from PwC, Skies Without Limits, suggests 76,000 drones will be in use in the UK by 2030.

The opportunities, however, are balanced with the dangers as the number of reported incidents involving drones and aircraft has risen from six in 2014 to 93 last year.

This has led the government to step in and create laws requiring drones weighing more than 250g to be registered, to ensure sensible use.

Drone pilots will be required to take an online safety test under the new legislation, amid an increase in the number of near-misses with aircraft.

The new rules will also ban drones from flying above 400ft, and within one kilometre (0.6 miles) of airport boundaries.

These restrictions are included in the CAA’s existing Drone Code, but will now become law.

Elliott Corke, director of training at drone training school The Aerial Academy in Drayton near Norwich, said he hoped the new legislation would be good for the industry as it enshrined much of what professionals were already adhering to.

He said: “I am hoping the legislation will affect the industry positively as it is geared towards the amateurs and will hopefully educate people hoping to come into the industry.”

However, Mr Corke said he had doubts as to how the registration of drones would be enforced, with hundreds of thousands already in the UK.

As well as possible disruption for air traffic, drones could replace many jobs, according to PwC. However, the report says UAVs will increase productivity and also create new jobs.

London Stansted Airport welcomed the new legislation, saying drones could cause serious risk to aircraft when flown near airports.

A spokesman said: “While the potential of innovative drone technologies is unquestioned, if drones pass into airspace around our airports they can cause issues which may result in delays for our airlines and passengers.”

How drones could boost the economy

While the benefits of drones to some sectors, such as logistics, appear obvious, a report from PwC suggests they could deliver billions of pounds of savings across the whole economy.

PwC’s Skies Without Limits suggests there will be opportunities to cut costs in sectors such as the technology and media industry, to the value of £4.2bn by 2030, through to financial services, logistics and government services.

The research predicts a GDP boost of £8.6bn in construction and manufacturing, £11.4bn in the public sector – which includes defence, health and education – and £7.7bn in retail and food services.

PwC believes more than a third of the 76,000 drones in the skies by 2030 will be used for the public sector.

The report also focuses on challenges to the industry which include legislating the airspace and ensuring drones are used in an ethical way.

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