Preston is manoeuvring to be able to claim a hefty slice of the cake in a prospective boost in the economy from the drone industry in the UK.
City leaders want Preston to become a hub for designing and building unmanned aircraft after one of the Big Four auditors has estimated that drones will have contributed a £42bn increase in UK GDP by 2030, with over 600,000 jobs in the industry.
They say Preston is “ideally placed” to harness the potential of the emerging new technology.
Coun Freddie Bailey, cabinet member for Community Wealth Building at Preston City Council, said: “The drone sector is growing fast.
“By 2030, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates that drones will have contributed to a £42bn increase in UK GDP, £16bn in annual cost savings to the UK economy and there will be over 600,000 jobs in the drone economy.
“Clearly this is a big industry and with us living in the fourth largest aerospace cluster in the world, we need to be supporting projects like this as this could be a big part of Preston’s economy in the future, developing and producing drones in Preston.”
Discussing how drones could be used Coun Bailey added: “A good example of how they will play a big part in Preston’s future is the new Preston Western Distributor where drones will be used for surveying.
“Also firefighters use them. If there’s a building on fire they can identify where the source is, for example. Then once the fire has been put out you can also use them to survey the damage on a roof rather than sending people up on a ladder.
“It’s used for photography and football clubs also use them.
“And the police have started using drones for catching criminals and it could even help in a similar way to how helicopters help.”
Members of the cabinet at the city council signed off a £37,065 grant from the European Regional Development Fund on Wednesday, August 14.
It will go towards developing drone technology for economic growth and jobs creation.
A spokesman for the city authority said: “We have the opportunity to build on our strengths and be at the forefront of new technologies such as drones.
“Lancashire has the single largest concentration of aerospace production in the UK, employing over 20,000 people and is one of the most important centres for high technology manufacturing nationally.
“Preston and Lancashire are ideally placed to build on this and try to harness the potential of emerging new technology such as drones – designing and building drones can create new jobs and increase skills.
“Preston is one of the main economic drivers of Lancashire, but Lancashire still lags behind the rest of the country in terms of productivity and how much it contributes to the economy - gross value added (GVA) in economic terms.
“So being able to innovate and take advantage of new technology and be a leader in a new technology can create jobs and improve skills and reduce the GVA gap in the economy.”
The funding, which would be spent over four years, would build on work at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
It could see the Civic Drone Centre, based at the university, involved in developing an “integrated supply chain for the design and build of drones for civic purposes”.
Council documents state: “The project focuses on the considerable economic potential of drones for civic purposes and the potential to create an ecosystem of small and medium-sized
enterprises (SMEs), start-ups and institutions to support, develop and apply cutting edge unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) applications.”