PwC has revealed it used a drone in its audit of RWE, a German energy company, to measure stock including coal reserves at a power plant in Aberthaw, south Wales.
It is the first time the firm has used a drone in an audit but it plans to roll out their use when auditing other businesses as the results were “groundbreaking”.
“Sectors with large assets in hard to reach areas are the most obvious starting points for expanding this kind of work further - from mining to agriculture and forestry,” said Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC.
The drone, which was manufactured and operated by UK drone company QuestUAV, was used to capture over 300 images of the coal reserve at one of the UK’s last remaining coal-fired power stations.
It found that the traditional method of manually traversing the coal pile can take around four hours, whereas using a drone it can be done in half an hour.
“While the traditional method remains reliable and will still be used for RWE’s formal year-end financial statements, the drone trial was conducted to explore ways of challenging the traditional method of stock counting. It was a classic example of new technology challenging the old - and based on our results, the potential is groundbreaking,” said Richard French, audit partner at PwC.
In January 2018, PwC announced a new team of drone specialists, based in the UK, to help clients with the emerging technology. The team advises on the use of drone data, and how to extract value from it. PwC also opened a global drone centre in Poland in 2016, named Drone Powered Solutions.
Big Four rival EY has also revealed plans to expand its use of drones to improve the audit process.
Research from PwC predicts that by 2030 the technology could boost the UK economy by £42bn and that 628,000 people will be working in the drone economy with 76,000 drones in the sky.