A report published by PwC suggests that UK industry will see a sharp increase in the use of drones in the coming decade – revolutionising a number of sectors and providing massive boosts to the UK economy.
Drones will play a critical role across a number of sectors, performing tasks deemed too dangerous for human workers or simply being introduced in an attempt to streamline operations. From flame-throwing drones used to clear and dispose of rubbish from power lines to geospatial surveys and construction projects, drones will change the face of British industry.
The Skies Without Limits report analysed the broader economic impact from drone technology, focusing specifically on seven sectors from manufacturing and construction to transport and logistics. It suggests that in the coming decade, more than 76,000 drones are expected to take to the skies above Britain, with as many as 25,000+ being employed across the electricity, gas, mining and agriculture sectors.
According to the report, this sharp rise in drone usage in the electricity, gas, mining and agriculture sectors could provide a boost of £1.1 billion to the UK economy by 2030. Additionally, specific sectors could make savings of more than £100 million through introducing this technology.
UK-wide, however, savings could be far greater, as the potential to save the UK up to £16 billion in costs by 2030 through increasing productivity. The overall uplift in drone usage will potentially grow UK GDP by £42 billion by 2030 – a boost equating to 2% of the UK’s GDP.
Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, commented:
“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 kick-start our drone industry.”
In the construction and manufacturing sector, the use of drones is expected to boost UK GDP by up to £8.6 billion by 2030 with around 4,800 drones taking to the skies. Already, these unmanned aerial vehicles are playing a crucial role in early-stage construction projects.
Not only are they a cheap and efficient way to map sites and track construction progress, they also offer an effective method of collecting three-dimensional information, integrating it with existing building information modelling (BIM) systems.
Revolutionising Oil and Gas
A significant uptake of drones in the oil and gas industry is also expected to revolutionise the sector – further improving safety, increasing efficiency and delivering huge cost savings.
The introduction of drones has already dramatically reduced the risks posed to workers, such as working at height – which is the second biggest cause of industrial fatalities in the UK. Other hazardous environments – such as the inside of storage tanks – will be made safer through the introduction of drones
Inspection efficiency is a particular area in which drones can revolutionise the oil and gas industry. Performing underdeck inspections on an oil platform, a drone can complete its task in five days, a stark contrast to the eight weeks it would take with a traditional scaffolding approach.
Cost savings in this instance are significant, with savings of over £4 million per day instead of shutting an asset down for traditional inspection methods.
Steve Jennings, PwC’s UK energy leader, said:
“As well as being a more efficient way of gathering standardised, tangible data than people on the ground or in manned aerial vehicles, it’s worth noting that they can also do it in a fraction of the time and without risking human life.
“That is of particular benefit across mining, gas and electricity sectors. And by automating routine tasks, improving effectiveness, safety and reducing costs, drones will free up people to focus on higher-value work.”