Delivery of freight by drones travelling along the River Thames could cut pollution drastically and improve Londoners’ health, according to drone technology expert Robert Garbett, founder of the Drone Major Group.

Garbett is calling on the UK government and the London Mayor to launch a maritime drone initiative, starting with London and expanding to other UK cities, to help take freight of city roads and cut pollution.

Garbett said: “The UK has the knowledge to become the global driving force in drone technology, starting in our largest cities, potentially with a pioneering maritime drone initiative in London on the river Thames that would decarbonise the city’s logistics and freight industry.

“The technology is available now and the huge health, environmental and economic benefits to the UK and its public should be a priority.

“This technology can be deployed in any city with a river in the UK, and beyond. Its adoption will dramatically reduce the number of delivery vehicles on our roads, massively improve air quality, reduce congestion, make roads faster and more efficient, and improve our wellbeing.”

He added: “Today, approximately 89% of all goods transported by land in Great Britain are moved directly by road transport, which is one of the UK’s most polluting industries.

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“The exciting and necessary benefits of a drone initiative of this kind will reduce the logistics industry’s dependence on road travel through innovative, cleaner technology and will advance the government’s bid to cut pollution in the UK’s most crowded and congested cities. The UK should become a world leader.”

Garbett said a maritime drone delivery system on the Thames would not require any new building infrastructure. Maritime drones would carry freight, travelling along the river to a series of pontoons equipped appropriately for lifting freight onto shore.

He added that over 550,000 Londoners will develop diseases caused by poor air quality by 2050, according to City Hall, which could cost the NHS and social care system in London alone over £10.4bn by 2050.

Garbett pointed to research published in the scientific journal Patterns, which found that a single drone delivery of a package accounted for 84% less emissions than a diesel truck, and used 94% less energy.

He added: “If we implement maritime drone technology systems in our major cities, we can clean up our air, future-proof our vital logistics industry and capitalise on one of the UK’s biggest opportunities for growth in clean technology.

“The longer the UK takes to act on the solution to air pollution, the greater health and environmental risk the British public will face,” he warned.