Drone technology could transform UK skies and boost the economy by £45bn by the end of the decade, the government says

Flying taxis, crime-fighting drones and critical 999 (emergency) care deliveries could all be a reality by 2030 thanks to the government and industry’s joint Future of Flight action plan, announced by the Department for Transport (DfT) on March 18, 2024). 

The document details plans for the first piloted flying taxi flight by 2026 and regular services by 2028, regular drone deliveries across UK skies by 2027 and demos of autonomous flying taxis without pilots on board by 2030 – transforming how people and goods are transported.

Aviation and Technology Minister Anthony Browne said: “Cutting-edge battery technology will revolutionise transport as we know it – this plan will make sure we have the infrastructure and regulation in place to make it a reality.”

The plan was unveiled on the same day the minister is due to visit Vertical Aerospace in Bristol – one of the UK companies making flying taxis and at the cutting edge of innovation in aviation.

These greener, quieter flying taxis are already undergoing the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) authorisation process and have been made possible thanks to rapid advances in battery technology, meaning they are light enough to stay in the air and powerful enough to cover the distances needed.

Other actions set out in the plan include: 

• allowing drones to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) so that the sector can grow without limiting the skies for other aircraft

• setting out how smaller aerodromes can operate as vertiports for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft

• developing standards to improve security for drones to boost public safety

• engaging communities and local authorities so that they can enjoy the economic and social benefits of these technologies.

First imagined in the Flightpath to the Future in 2022, this joint plan between industry and government sets out the strategic direction of the sector over the next five years, striking a balance between innovation, security, safety and cutting emissions.

 The Future of Flight action plan contains measures to make drone applications and assessments easier by creating new and simple digital platforms that operators can use, the DfT said.

It will also enable the development of vertiports – mini-airports for drones and electric aircraft that take off vertically – by developing certification standards and reviewing the use of existing infrastructure to deliver at speed, boost safety and security and put the passenger first.

The action plan comes ahead of the fifth meeting of the Future of Flight Industry Group, a joint force established in February 2023 for UK government and industry leaders to tackle the biggest challenges facing the sector and set ambitious goals as emerging aviation technologies become more commonplace.

Duncan Walker, chief executive of Skyports and chairman of the Future of Flight Industry Group, said: “The UK is home to one of the world’s most important aerospace industries and is in an ideal position to be a pioneer in the next era of aviation. The government and industry have a joint commitment to support the development, industrialisation and introduction of new aviation technologies. Continued collaboration will ensure that we capitalise on the significant domestic and international market opportunities presented by the future of flight.”

By supporting research and development in electric aircraft and drones, and with the help of key partners like the CAA, the action plan aims to usher in a new era of eco-friendly aviation and boost the economy with new investments, ensuring the UK captures the full potential of this emerging global industry as a force for good and a driver of growth.

A rendering of an eVTOL over London
A rendering of an eVTOL over London Vertical Aerospace