Monday 9 May 2016 5:37 pm

UK set for take off in "drones for business" industry worth billions

The market for drones in business – from transporting goods to servicing ships and filming TV shows – could be worth $127.3bn (£88bn) and the UK is destined to play a major part in that, new research reveals.

Infrastructure, agriculture and transport are the areas where drone technology will have the greatest application, in terms of both labour and services, according to PwC which has unveiled fresh plans to offer a commercial surveyor drone service to clients to grab a share of the market.

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The infrastructure-related drone business will account for 35 per cent of the market, worth $45bn a year, with one of the biggest applications likely to be the supervision and maintenance of projects.

"We are currently in discussion with several major companies from a wide range of industries about how they can use drones to improve their business processes," said Michal Mazur, head of PwC's drone powered solutions business in central and eastern Europe.

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"This got us thinking about the potential value of the global drone-powered solutions market. With an estimated market value of over $127bn in commercial applications, drones are making the transition from novelty item to indispensable business tool," said Mazur.

Drones can be used for a wide range of tasks, such as data collection, remote monitoring, filming and deliveries. PwC's new drone business will be based in Poland, however, the UK's favourable regulatory environment, which is on a par with Poland's and ahead of 13 other countries – including the US and China – means it will likely become one of the largest markets in Europe for drone business, according to the firm.

While Amazon has largely popularised the idea of drones being used in a business context, it is still some way from a fully fledged drone delivery service and has run into several regulatory hurdles in the US.

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This has not discouraged other firms from pursuing the technology to transform the way they do business, however.

US shipping giant UPS today announced it has partnered with robotics firm Zipline to deliver blood supplies and vaccines across Rwanda via drone fleets.

Meanwhile, a different kind of shipping giant, this time Maersk, is testing out drones for delivering supplies to ships and inspections of vessels.