By 2050, it is estimated that there will be some 7 million consumer leisure drones in operation across Europe, including a fleet of 400 000 drones offering important services across the agricultural, energy, e-commerce, transport as well as public sectors. With an estimated value of EUR 15 billion annually, this market represents a huge potential for Europe and its global competitiveness. However the next years will be critical to ensuring the right ecosystem at European level is in place, all the main stakeholders are on board and research and innovation efforts are identified. These are some of the main findings of a study published today by the SESAR Joint Undertaking, the public-private partnership responsible for modernising European air traffic management.
The “SESAR Drones Outlook Study” provides a snapshot of the drone landscape in 2050 and how new markets will unfold:
- Agriculture sector where over 100 000 drones are forecasted to enable precision agriculture to help drive increased levels of productivity that are required
- Energy sector where close to 10 000 drones limit risk of personnel and infrastructure by performing preventative maintenance inspections
- Delivery purposes where there is potential for a fleet of nearly 100 000 drones to provide society with urgent service capabilities, such as transporting emergency medical supplies, and “premium” deliveries
- Public safety and security where a forecasted fleet of approximately 50 000 drones would provide authorities like police and fire forces the means to more efficiently and effectively locate endangered citizens and assess hazards as they carry out civil protection and humanitarian missions
Setting up a competitive European drone market would improve connectivity, as well as allow economic growth and the creation of jobs. Such a market would also support the EU aviation strategy by embracing a new era of innovation while helping maintain the high EU safety performance standards. Unlocking the full potential of the market is dependent on the ability of these new vehicles to operate safely in various airspaces, including at very low altitude levels. This requires continued support to boost R&D capabilities and establish a suitable framework for the market to unfold.
Much of what still needs to be done relates to traffic management technology needs (such as detect and avoid and air/ground data communications), Air Traffic Management operational procedures, security and cyber reliance along with the availability of authorised and safe testing environments. Finally, the study notes that it will be critical to act quickly given the pace of global development in drone operations.
“The drone market is clearly set to bring significant benefits all over Europe and the continuation of that growth appears to be a matter of not if, but when. Europe must be ready with the right procedures and technologies to manage that new traffic safely and securely. With the right level of investment and engagement from the stakeholders, we are confident that SESAR can support this endeavour,” said Florian Guillermet, Executive Director, SESAR Joint Undertaking.