Drone technology could contribute a staggering £42 billion to the UK’s economy by 2030 as a new report predicts that over 76,000 drones will be in use across Britain’s skies.

New research published by PwC also estimates that 628,000 people would be working in the drones economy by 2030. New types of jobs to develop, build, operate and regulate drones will be needed.

Increased productivity as a result of using drones could also help the UK achieve up to £16bn in net cost savings.

Of the 76,000 drones expected to be in use across the UK’s skies by 2030, the report estimates that over a third could be used by the public sector, including in areas such as defence, health and education.

Although there are significant opportunities for economic gains across all sectors, the GDP uplift generated by drones is forecast to have the largest impact on the wholesale and retail trade sector with an increase of 2.5 per cent, amounting to around £7.7bn.

Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, said the advantages of drone technology will be well established within the decade but stressed there is a need for current UK drone regulation to advance “to see the estimations in our report become a reality”.

“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,” she said.

“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 the UK has the opportunity to be “at the leading edge of exploiting this emerging technology” and stressed that “now is the time for investments to be made”.

Aviation minister Baroness Sugg said: “PwC’s research demonstrates the significant economic benefits that drone technology can bring to the UK. And they are already improving people’s lives – helping the emergency services and keeping key national infrastructure like rail lines and power stations safe.

“Excitingly this is just the beginning, which is why government is doing everything possible to harness the huge future potential through our Industrial Strategy and Drones Bill.”