GSMA Intelligence and BT Group laid out a series of recommendations to boost the UK’s position in the so-called drone economy, citing research which showed the country lagged several European peers but is ahead of the US.

BT-commissioned research by GSMA Intelligence assessed various nations for drone readiness, taking into account the ecosystem in each country including regulation and existing infrastructure.

Switzerland topped the international ranking, which assessed 12 countries including all of the G7.

It was followed by Italy, Germany, France, Finland and Japan.

The US and South Korea propped up the table, having scored lowest on the readiness of regulations category.

Conclusions in the report focused on the UK and outlined actions authorities could take to boost its ranking.

BT estimates the drone economy has the potential to be worth £45 billion to the country by 2030.

Preparing for take-off
Among the key recommendations were advancing clearances for remotely-piloted drones at scale.

Researchers cited the capability for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drones as underpinning a successful strategy and related applications.

“Although the UK has a BVLOS policy, it was found to be confusing and unclear among the raft of companies and start-ups testing or seeking deployment of their services at scale,” the companies stated.

GSMA Intelligence and BT added there is a need for a new regulatory framework covering areas including unmanned aircraft traffic system management (UTM), safety standards and training.

Other advice includes establishing a culture promoting innovation and growth in the segment, and extending an existing government-funded Future Flight Challenge scheme.

The companies argued changes must be implemented within 12 months, with many of the most-advanced countries in this area expected to have drone regulations in place in 2024 or 2025.

“There is no question drones will be a key part of successful digital economies. The technology side of development is happening at pace across the board. The issue now is having regulatory systems that enable commercial expansion at scale,” GSMA Intelligence head of consulting Tim Hatt explained.

“The challenge for the UK is that, despite huge progress in drone development, regulation has not kept pace.”