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UK government releases policy paper that paves the way for a drone future

UK government releases policy paper that paves the way for a drone future
UK government releases policy paper that paves the way for a drone future

The drone industry can add an estimated $57 billion to the UK economy by 2030 through “cost savings to the transport, logistics and public sectors.” This is according to a report compiled by PwC, incorporated in the UK government’s policy paper called Future of Flight Action Plan

PwC also estimated the socioeconomic benefits of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) for the UK could be between one and three billion US dollars annually by 2040.

The transport department released a 25-page report detailing its vision to become a world leader in drone delivery. “By 2030, the UK will be a leader in emerging aviation technologies with a sustainable industry and thriving ecosystem at home and UK companies providing a range of services around the world.”

Plotting a plan for a greener UK

“We want to revolutionize how we travel, deliver goods, and provide public services here in the UK,” says the department. 

By tapping into the endless opportunities drone deliveries can offer, the government wants to “seize the business opportunities and capitalize on the export potential of a new global industry.”

The report acknowledges that the dream to be the world’s “global powerhouse” for drone deliveries is “ambitious, far-sighted,” and requires an “action-oriented” approach. The Future Flight Centre (FFC) invests $2.3 million in social science research to determine the “potential impact and societal concerns.”

The Economic and Social Research Council has already highlighted concerns. This comes after its first public consultation, where they discussed the impact on society and the environment.

Drone deliveries to remote areas

Last year, Orkney Islands became the first location in the UK to receive mail by drone. Drones shorten the time and costs spent transporting items to Graemsay and Hoy staff. From there, postal workers carry out their usual island delivery routes.

The government aims to achieve routine operations beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight (BVLOS) for drone deliveries. Drones for delivery have been limited by regional regulations thus far. However, some countries realize the economic benefits of drones and are seriously considering changing the BVLOS regulations

In the UK, these operations are currently only carried out in “segregated airspace”. This is to avoid mid-air collisions.

The government recognizes that if it eagles BVLOS operations at scale, mitigating this risk will “broaden the range of potential uses and deliver the significant benefits of drones.”

How to deliver on promises

Central government’s role

One of them (probably the most crucial) is convincing the private sector to buy in on the plan. The report describes selling it to corporations as a strategy that has the “ability to save time, costs, and lives.”

For a plan with short deadlines like this, there needs to be an emotional and financial buy-in from the public. Without investment, the UK government won’t be able to carry the financial burden alone. “Using the government’s Future Flight Challenge to bring the ecosystem players together to jointly develop the system of systems and funding with $160 million of public investment.”

Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) role

The CAA is one of the key partners in the transportation plan. They are ensuring that the regulatory framework will make sure the public and aviation users are always safe. 

Not only must the CAA ensure the plan is safe, but it must also functionally protect consumers. “Ensuring that authorization and oversight of operators and services are timely, commensurate with risk, and communicated with providers and those affected,” stipulates the report.

Experts’ role 

New skills will need to be taught to ensure the level of experts and knowledgeable staff increase drastically. “Making the UK Future of Flight industry an exciting, rewarding, and accessible workplace with wide-ranging and diverse opportunities.”

Additionally, there will also be a great deal of investment in the latest technologies to help experts train relevant industry leaders.

Timeline of UK government’s drone plans

The “ambitious” new plans announced by the government will chase the following targets. This is if it’s serious about becoming the leading country for drone delivery. 

  • 2024: Drones operating BVLOS will move away from segregation from other airspace users to accommodation alongside them in new airspace structures.

  • 2026: Cargo and passenger operations by electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for the first time. 

  • 2027: BVLOS drone operations will be widespread. It will provide drones with a total potential range of applications, including inspections, surveillance, critical health care, and emergency response. 

  • 2028: Piloted commercial cargo and passenger operations by electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

  • 2030: Autonomous electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft flights with no pilot. 

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About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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