UK think tank the Entrepreneurs Network has called on the UK Government to appoint a drone minister to oversee the sector’s growth and unlock its potential.
“Our recommendation to create a junior ministerial role with specific responsibility for the drone economy comes from a desire to see this exciting and important sector treated with due seriousness, with barriers to innovation able to be dealt with quickly and decisively,” said the Entrepreneurs Network’s head of innovation research Anton Howes.
In a report published today, the think tank argued that by investing £10m to enable recreational aircraft in the country to become “electronically conspicuous”, the government would unlock the sector’s contribution to the economy.
Data from a PwC report showed that the UK drone economy is set to be worth around £42bn by 2030.
“Unmanned passenger transportation is still some way off, but drones have the potential to make an enormous contribution to the UK economy,” said the Entrepreneurs Network’s research director Sam Dumitriu.
Dumitriu and Howes reported that, to avoid collision, drones are made only visible to each other and traffic control systems through on board electronic devices that communicate their position.
The 20,000 recreational aircraft operating in the same category as drones are not required to be electronically conspicuous, but could be made so for £500 each.
“It’s ridiculous that further testing – and ultimately mass adoption – of potentially hugely impactful applications could be held up or prevented altogether, and the economic benefit lost, as a result of something so trivial,” added Dumitriu.
The research’s authors have also argued that – given the enormous potential applications of drones – such a small investment could actually remove a major barrier to the industry’s growth.
“The Department for Transport was already offering recreational flyers a 50 per cent rebate on electronic conspicuity devices in a scheme that expires at the end of March – our proposal is merely a low-cost expansion and extension of this to solve an immediate roadblock to important innovation,” Dumitriu added.
“This would just be toppling the first domino in the chain, but the government will struggle to find anywhere else where an investment on this scale could deliver such an enormous return at 420,000 per cent.“