Analysis conducted under the flag of the UK’s Flying High programme, which explores how cities can shape the future of drone use, has highlighted the massive potential for the local drone industry.
The research, carried out on behalf of global innovation foundation Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, has included an audit of the country’s existing drone sector.
This has led the foundation to describe it as ‘thriving’ – and not only that.
The foundation also says the research shows that there is room for huge growth for emerging unmanned technology, in a sector that already has 76,000 drones in UK skies.
“Drones are an emerging technology and much of their promise lies in the future. But there is already a significant drone economy in the UK today and much of the future economic opportunity will come from these smaller companies and institutions that we have identified in our research,” says Tris Dyson, Executive Director of the Challenge Prize Centre.
The audit, conducted by London-based startup Glass using AI ‘web reader’ software and further compiled by Nesta using data from Gateway to Research, has resulted in a comprehensive database of local drone businesses and services, which the organisation says is the most comprehensive ever compiled to date in the UK.
To visualise this, Flying High has created an interactive map which shows not only the location of all 800 or so civic and commercial drone players listed in the database, but also categorises them according to entity and technology type.
We have embedded the interactive map for you on this page but if you find it too small, you can also view it here.
The results are indeed interesting, showing the largest sector (or entity type) by far is service providers (62%), followed by technology developers (20%).
This is followed by other providers to the drone industry (12%), other drone-related entities and academia/institutes (6% combined).
Flying High says that the large number of companies is indicative of the strength of the local UK drone industry which forms a solid foundation on which to build a global presence.
Across the industry, Flying High says that there is strong agreement that the next steps needed are to support infrastructure and provide a space in which these new emerging technologies can continue to be tested within city environments.
However there are aspects of the current space which need change, says Dyson.
“In order to ensure this potential is realised, these companies need more than just technology push funding. In the first phase of Flying High, we identified a number of barriers to entry that are currently inhibiting market development and the approach needed to unlock them via subsequent phases of the programme to enable testing and development of new models of urban airspace usage,” she says.
With recent research by PWC estimating that the drones could inject £42 billion into the country’s economy by 2030, with the potential for cost savings across industries using drones amounting to £6 billion, the importance of addressing such needs is imperative.