Drone technology could add £42bn to the UK economy by 2030, by increasing productivity and creating value through data collections, according to new research.

A study by PwC shows drone technology has the potential to increase GDP by 2 per cent, with “significant opportunities” for economic gains across all sectors. The biggest benefit would be to the wholesale and retail trade sector, PwC said, which could see GDP increase by 2.5 per cent. The technology, media and telecoms would see an uplift of 2.1 per cent, but would see the biggest cost savings, with a potential net saving of £4.8bn by 2030.

The findings strike a rare positive note for the UK economy, with a collapse in the growth of UK GDP confirmed by the Office for National Statistics last week. The economy grew by just 0.1 per cent in the three months to March, the worst reading in more than five years.

Meanwhile, increased use of drones would create more new jobs: across the UK PwC estimates there will be 628,000 people working in the drone economy 12 years from now. New types of jobs to develop, build, operate and regulate drones will be needed, the research shows, as changes in productivity and consumer demand resulting from drone usage create jobs.

Researchers estimate that there will be more than 76,000 drones in use in the UK by 2030, and more than a third could be used by the public sector.

Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, said: “The UK has the opportunity to be at the leading edge of exploiting this emerging technology, and now is the time for investments to be made in developing the use cases and trial projects needed to kickstart our drone industry.

“In order to realise the full potential from drones, the immediate focus must be on developing society’s confidence in the technology to help drive acceptance and increase adoption. While drones are often currently viewed as more of a toy, by combining this emerging technology with the right business understanding and human insight there is a huge opportunity to help solve some of business and society’s most important problems.”

She added that drones are useful not only for business purposes, but also for “helping to protect our society”, for example, if used by the emergency services.

Baroness Sugg, the aviation minister, said PwC’s research “demonstrates the significant economic benefits that drone technology can bring to the UK”.

She added the the government was doing everything possible to “harness the huge future potential” of drone technology, through the industrial strategy and the drones bill.

The government first introduced the Drone (Regulation) Bill in September last year, with the aim of introducing a registration process for drone operators. MPs also want to ban drones flying near airports.