Drones can boost Australia's GDP by $15 billion over 20 years

22 November 2020 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read

The drone economy is vibrant in itself, while also bringing myriad potential savings to other key sectors in Australia. Deloitte Access Economics forecasts suggest that the technology could bring billions in economic value by 2040. 

Deloitte Access Economics was called upon by Australia’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications to examine the economic value of drones to Australia. This includes innovative use-cases and their growth, costs to be saved by using drones, and the consequent impact on GDP and employment.

For their analysis, the researchers chose scenario-based economic modeling – a number of scenarios are presented with varying degrees of use cases and adoption. A ‘low-uptake’ scenario, for instance, would see the technology grow at a much slower rate than anticipated, while a ‘high uptake’ scenario would mark an unprecedented boom in the market.

Recreational drones take centre stage - Adoption rate, recreational use of drones

“Most likely,” according to the researchers, is a ‘medium uptake’ scenario – which will fuel an increase in the uptake rate in existing sectors (e.g. agriculture, mining, construction) as well as growth in new use cases, said Deloitte Access Economics partner Steve Kanowski.

The largest of these use cases is recreational – flying for fun, competition, photography, videography or other creative pursuits. In a medium scenario, the researchers expect recreational drones to make up 30% of drone technology uptake by 2040, equating to more than 2 million units.

No doubt, this in itself is a significant economic boost, given that pricing for drones starts at $300 for low-end models. The price is low enough to encourage widespread adoption, but high enough to generate tens of billions in sales. Topping this off, drones have non-recreational applications across sectors, which signals tremendous economic potential for Australia.

Economic impact of drones

In fact, drones could add $14.5 billion to the Australian economy – through GDP expansion – by 2040 in a medium scenario, as opposed to around $9 billon in a low uptake scenario and over $20 billion if uptake is high. A thriving drone economy also brings jobs with it – specifically 5,500 full-time equivalent jobs by 2040 in a medium uptake scenario.


Kanowski highlighted some sectors that are already using drones. In agriculture, for instance, drones can be fitted with sensors and digital imaging to give farmers a holistic overview of their fields – adding value for crop production and monitoring. According to the report, drone technology could reach up to 75% market penetration in agriculture by 2040, creating nearly $3 billion in savings for the sector.

Agriculture currently makes up more than 10% of Australia’s exports, and savings of such magnitude will undoubtedly boost profits.


A similarly central industry in Australia is mining, where market penetration for drones could also reach 75% by 2040. Drones are used for three-dimensional mapping of mining environments, as well as for ore control, rock fragmentation measurements and stability monitoring.

Impact of drones by industry

By 2040, drones could save nearly $2.5 billion for mining companies.


Also in focus is ecommerce, where drones could save nearly $2 billion. The sheer volume of online deliveries – on the rise in Australia – makes manual delivery a high-cost and high-emission affair. In the Covid-19 paradigm, physical deliveries are also a high-risk affair.

Drone deliveries solve all these problems. Not surprisingly, drone penetration in ecommerce will be between 50% and 75% by 2040, depending on the rate of uptake. Other key areas where drones could add value include construction, government services and even urban air mobility.

The Deloitte Access Economic report highlights myriad other applications of drone technology across the economy. In light of the findings Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has urged stakeholders to read the report and join the discussion.“Collaboration and industry involvement is crucial to the success of unlocking the opportunities drones present, which is why I encourage anyone interested who hasn’t yet had their say to get involved and provide feedback on the issues paper,” he said.