Use cases & solutions

Drone Use in the United Kingdom

Monday, 18 September 2023

In recent years, the UK has witnessed remarkable advancements in drone technology, particularly in healthcare and delivery services. Headlines in 2021 highlighted Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) autonomous deliveries of COVID tests and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), while 2022 unveiled plans for a 265-kilometer drone superhighway. Drones have also become instrumental for institutions like the Royal Mail and the NHS, painting a promising future for the drone industry in the UK.

The composition of the UK drone market is primarily made up of small enterprises, with a majority of them employing fewer than 50 individuals. Among these, most operate as Drone Service Providers (DSPs), while there's also a notable presence of software and component manufacturers. Additional niche businesses focus on drone training/education or in-house drone utilization (BIS).

Much like their global counterparts, marketing and sales top the priority list for UK drone companies. Following closely are financial concerns and software development, reflecting the industry's substantial number of startups in need of funding and the high demand for drone-related software solutions.

However, UK drone companies face common challenges shared by their peers worldwide, particularly in terms of regulation. Participants in Droneii’s 2023 drone industry survey highlighted legislative hurdles and slow bureaucratic processes as obstacles, particularly for BVLOS applications, vital for the industry's growth. Public acceptance and domestic politics also pose challenges, as awareness of drones' operational and financial benefits remains limited.

In terms of optimism, the UK drone industry exhibits growing optimism compared to the previous year, which aligns with responses from the rest of the world. The top market-driving factors, according to UK drone companies, include rule-making authorities, DSPs, and software manufacturers.

In 2022, the UK ranked alongside Australia at the top of the regulatory Drone Readiness Index by Drone Industry Insights. While this ranking may seem contradictory with UK company concerns, the index primarily assesses the creation and availability of regulatory frameworks rather than the speed at which permits are granted or exceptions provided. The UK has indeed established regulatory frameworks, but it must still streamline the process to facilitate advanced drone operations like BVLOS.

In conclusion, the United Kingdom's unique combination of population, geography, and economic prowess makes it an ideal environment for the thriving drone industry. Leveraging its strengths in service industries and other sectors, the UK can continue to explore drones' potential in healthcare, transportation, and infrastructure. However, realizing this opportunity requires addressing challenges tied to regulation, public acceptance, and domestic politics. Fostering collaboration and innovation among the industry's diverse stakeholders will be key to unlocking the full potential of drones in the UK.

Share your stories with us
Do you have knowledge on current air solutions, potential innovations and vital regulations you would like to share with the UAS community? The Amsterdam Drone Week website and social media channels are a great platform to showcase your stories!
Please contact our Brand Marketing Manager Hilke de Vries.