News | 22 Jan 2020

How cellular-connected drones could boost the UK economy

Vodafone UK is calling for commercial and public sector drones to be fitted with SIM cards to give them cellular network connectivity. 

This would help reduce illegal and irresponsible drone use, the company argues, the like of which closed Gatwick Airport in December 2018 and which has caused many potentially catastrophic “near miss” incidents with passenger aircraft. 

The report, called Cellular-connected Drones and written by WPI Economics for Vodafone, reveals that 80% of people surveyed would support more widespread adoption of drones if there were a mechanism to provide increased safety, security and monitoring.

Cellular-connected drones infographic polling result

Credits: Vodafone

Ensuring drones were fitted with SIM cards would enable them to be flown beyond “visual line of sight” of their operators, the report argues, and for their true potential to be realised. Currently, drone pilots must keep their drones within sight at all times. 

Cellular connection would also facilitate a necessary Unmanned Traffic Management system to monitor drone identity, location and flight plan authorisation, as well as enable dynamic no-fly zones, Vodafone argues. 

Its Radio Positioning System, developed in 2018, would police such zones and prevent drones from entering them.

The report argues that remotely controlled and monitored drones could: 

  • deliver time-critical medical supplies
  • inspect power lines, bridges and other infrastructure
  • monitor and respond to emergency situations, including firesand traffic accidents 
  • improve agricultural efficiency through “precision farming”
  • survey forests, buildings and construction sites
  • provide accurate flood maps and damage assessments for the insurance industry.

By 2030, consultancy PwC thinks we'll have...

drones in UK skies
jobs in the UK drone economy

added to UK GDP


annual cost savings


And the report calls for the government to: 

  • establish a “blue light” drones fund to enable emergency services and NHS trusts to trial drones for new purposes
  • establish further testing facilities for UTM systems and Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations
  • explore how cellular connectivity could facilitate UTM systems, dynamic no-fly zones and electronic detectability.

Click here for the full press release and download the report by clicking on the red button at the top of this article.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK, please visit:

Vodafone UK Media Relations

Telephone: +44 (0) 1635 693 693


Twitter: @VodafoneUKNews


Vodafone Limited

Registered Office: Vodafone House, The Connection, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2FN

Registered in England No: 1471587