Ready for take off? MPs are probing the potential of commercial drones (and the risks) in a fresh inquiry by the transport select committee

 
Lynsey Barber
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Drones could be worth billions to the UK economy (Source: Getty)

Drones will come under the spotlight in a new inquiry by MPs who will look at the economic potential of the technology and the safety and security risks around the devices.

The potential market for drones is estimated to be worth $127bn globally, with opportunities to apply the technology across business, from transporting goods, to servicing ships and filming TV shows.

MPs on the transport select committee will look at where the UK could grab a slice of that, but will also consider the regulation surrounding it, including how misuse of drones is tackled and insurance arrangements for the technology.

Read more: Amazon wants to parachute your packages by delivery drone

"Civilian drones have the potential to fundamentally change how many industries – including the transport sector – work. This inquiry will consider the implications of this technology," said committee chair Louise Ellman.

We will also be asking whether enough is being done to ensure drone technology can reach its potential without compromising the safety of other aircraft and the public in general."

Amazon is among the most high-profile companies to be testing drones and made its first ever delivery via drone late last year in the UK. The test-flght in Cambridgeshire where Amazon's drone facilities are based, was a seal of approval for the UK's friendly regulatory environment.

Logistics and transport firm Maersk has been looking at how drones can be used to deliver to its ships to save time and money having to dock at ports, as well as using them for inspections of oil tankers.

And US delivery company UPS has demonstrated a truck which can launch drones to get packages to people's doors.

"It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery," said senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability Mark Wallace.

PwC predicts the biggest markets for drones will be infrastructure, agriculture and transport.

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