Despite opportunities of drones privacy concerns persist

18 February 2019 3 min. read
More news on

While it presents an undeniably lucrative prospect, drone technology remains controversial, not least because of its implications for privacy. Companies in Ireland that utilise drones want to establish trust and transparency before being confident about the technology's use, a new report has found.

Drones – unmanned aerial vehicles operated by a user on the ground – exist in a legal grey area. Used by NATO forces overseas and for security purposes at home, more rudimentary drones can also be bought online and used by hobbyists – a growing cause of concern for privacy advocates, as well as airport security.

A drone sighting recently brought Gatwick Airport to a standstill at Christmas, while earlier in December, reports emerged that another unmanned vehicle came within 15 metres of a plane at Stansted Airport. Maintaining airspace safety is, as such, a key concern among citizens around the world regarding drone technology. However, a survey by students of the MSc in Management Consulting at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School found that one in eight of respondents from drone-using companies cited privacy as their main worry.

Despite opportunities of drones privacy concerns persist

The research, performed on behalf of PwC, also highlighted the fact that some 58% of Irish business leaders who have previously used drones believed that they lack drone knowledge – making errors surrounding their use more likely in the process. This will make for worrying reading for businesses looking to leverage the technology, especially as a majority of 88% of Irish business leaders and consumers believe that the public perception of drones is negative, while 85% are lukewarm about commercial drone use in the best case scenario.

As a result, PwC analysts suggest that companies using drone technology should place greater emphasis on educating their workforce, and significant effort must be made to increase and improve the information available to the public regarding such technology. To increase knowledge of drones, companies must promote the idea that drones are simply a platform and that the real value comes from the associated insights which can be gleaned from the analysis of large data sets provided by this platform.

Drones are explicitly heralded by PwC as one of the ‘Essential Eight’ technologies that matter most for businesses over the next three to five years. The firm has already committed to significant expenditure on the matter, including the opening of drone hubs in Poland and the UK. It predicts the global market in drone-powered solutions for the power and utilities industry is already worth $9.46 billion a year.

Ronan Fitzpatrick, digital director, PwC Ireland said of the findings, “As companies reinvent their business models, drones are helping increase the reliability of energy production, transmission and distribution. The true power of drones comes from the rapid data collection capabilities, combined with sensors and Artificial Intelligence, in a device which can be controlled remotely or flown automatically. Whilst the use of the data may vary by industry, drones can provide an increasingly feasible and accelerated means of gathering that data.”

Related: PwC uses drone to assist audit in global first.