Expert consultation on the future of civilian drones in the UK

The APPG on Drones is seeking expert advice on the future of drones in the UK. The insight provided by experts will inform the Group’s position on what a future that is sustainable and safe, and that promotes technology and development whilst protecting privacy and other individual rights looks like. This call for expert advice is part of a process that will inform the Group’s position on drones legislature in the future.

The technology of civilian drones is rapidly developing, with a major boom in civilian drones expected over the next 10 years. According to PwC, the civilian drone industry could add as much as £42 billion to the UK’s GDP by 2030. What we are looking at is the transformative capacity of drones to reshape our physical world into a three dimensional domain of physical traffic, transmission and interception of data, and automated functions – with potential knock on effects in space through connection to communication satellites. A wholesale revolution in how we engage with the space around us, and in the capability of states and companies to gather and analyse data.

Currently, discussions and regulatory action addressing developments are fixated on off-the-shelf recreational drones and small scale commercial uses. While these discussions are practical and necessary – in particular following the incidents at Gatwick and Heathrow – debates regarding civilian drone use by the public sector and big business have not even started. Beyond physical congestion and security issues, there are urgent questions regarding the gathering, transmission and use of data by public and private entities that require interrogation and debate.

While this technology is still developing, we believe this is an opportune time to discuss the opportunities as well as the risks. Much more information is required on exactly what technologies and uses are being developed, and the APPG on Drones is working with stakeholders from all sectors to collate and share this information.

As it stands, however, conversations regarding technological public interest issues appear to be siloed. We hope with this exercise to bring together a holistic understanding of the transformative nature of the drone as a platform for digital information, incorporating capabilities such as facial recognition, persistent surveillance, biometrics, artificial intelligence, autonomous functions – and what questions this raises for society.

We encourage experts to answer the questions that relate to your work or expertise by COB Friday 5 April. 


If you have any questions, please get in touch with Camilla Molyneux at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *