The global commercial drone market has seen significant growth in recent years, driven by technological advancements and increased adoption across various industries. As a result, the commercial drone market is expected to surpass $125 billion by 2032 at a compound annual growth rate of 15%.
Drones have become an essential tool for businesses and governments, allowing them to access areas and perform previously difficult or impossible tasks. In addition, they have led to increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved accuracy in a wide range of industries. As a result, there has been a tremendous increase in the usage of drone technology as more businesses recognize its potential and advantages.
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Application Areas of Commercial Drones
Drones are evolving from their military roots to become useful tools for commercial businesses. Their versatility has made them particularly valuable in several sectors, including consumer goods, inspections, agriculture, and transportation.
Drones have transformed facility inspections, especially in the gas business. For example, Cyberhawk, a Scottish corporation, used manual inspections that put personnel at risk.
These inspections required shutting down areas of the terminal, resulting in millions of dollars in daily losses. However, introducing drones has reduced the need to shut down activities and saved $1 million to $5 million per day.
Drones are helping farmers assess crop health. For example, farmers can detect crops that need more nutrients by using drones to capture aerial images of their farms. Drones can also identify pests and monitor crop growth, helping farmers avert agricultural damage.
Cartography and Geodesy
Drones are efficient tools for completing various mapping and aerial photography tasks quickly and cost-effectively. With specialized software, a single drone can create detailed ortho mosaics, relief maps, and 3D models, and assist in all process stages, including data analysis and comparison.
The Phantom 4 RTK drone from DJI is a strong tool for surveyors to swiftly and accurately collect data in various environments. Its real-time kinematic module allows drone location in areas with high-rise buildings and other GPS signal blockages. In addition, TimeSync synchronizes the drone's location data with the camera's images, ensuring precise survey information.
Search, Rescue and Assistance
Drones are also used in emergency and rescue situations, allowing for quick and efficient responses in dangerous conditions. Equipped with visible and thermal cameras, drones can quickly locate and detect people in poor visibility or heavy smoke and transmit this information to the operator in real-time, enabling quick decision-making and potentially saving lives.
One notable example of this was after Hurricane Ida, where first responders used drone survey images to assess the safety of roadways before entering damaged areas and shared these images with local citizens to aid in the decision-making process of returning to their homes.
Drones have the potential to revolutionize the delivery of medical supplies in remote and hard-to-reach areas around the world.
One example is Zipline, a Silicon Valley start-up that uses fixed-wing drones to deliver medical supplies to remote locations in all weather conditions. These drones have served more than 21 hospitals and 2000 facilities in Rwanda and Ghana.
Drones are also a potential solution for the last-mile delivery of consumer goods. Companies could minimize delivery costs and time by deploying drones.
According to McKinsey, a 40% reduction in delivery costs may boost business margins by 15-20% and lower consumer prices. In addition, autonomous delivery drones are becoming more attractive as labor costs grow, especially in developing countries.
Recent Developments in Commercial Drones Market
Drone Technology in the Solar Energy Revolution
Inspection of solar panels can be a costly and time-consuming task. Drone Visual, a Brazilian company, has found a solution by using drones to inspect solar panels. They use the DJI Matrice 210 RTK V2 drone to capture thermal and visual images of the panels.
Using a solar inspection drone, two staff members scanned a 10 km2 region in 13 days and found 6,000 anomalies across three solar plants.
UK's First Drone Superhighway
BT has entered into a £5 million partnership with Altitude Angel to create the longest and largest network of its kind in the world, called the drone superhighway, using their Unified Traffic Management software which allows drones to fly safely over long distances without a human pilot.
The partnership with BT will accelerate the implementation of technology that detects and identifies drones, allowing them to share airspace safely with traditional aircraft.
The potential market for drone cargo delivery in the UK is estimated to be worth £45 billion by 2030. It can revolutionize essential services such as emergency response, medical supply farming, transport, and architectural planning.
Current Global Market of Commercial Drones
Major Players in the Commercial Drones Market
The commercial drone market is primarily concentrated in the United States, Israel, and China, with each country having a distinct focus within the industry.
China, for example, has a strong presence in the hardware solutions and consumer market, with companies such as Dajiang Innovations (DJI) dominating the market. In contrast, companies based in the United States tend to focus on developing end-to-end software for commercial applications and specialized commercial hardware solutions.
On the other hand, Israel has a history of developing military drone applications and has now become a leader in autonomous solutions for enterprises, with companies such as Tel Aviv-based Airobotics at the forefront of this development.
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The commercial drone market in North America is predicted to see significant growth in the next five years, with a projected growth rate of over 12%. This is due to the rising demand from various industries and sectors in the United States and Canada. In addition, the presence of major players such as Skydio, AeroVironment, and Insitu in the US is also expected to drive revenue in the region.
The European drone market is expected to experience significant growth in the coming years, with a projected CAGR of over 11%. Several factors drive this growth, including an increased focus on innovative technology development through strategic partnerships.
The ability to deliver real-time video capabilities and the exploration of new potential use cases for drones are also expected to drive the deployment of commercial drone technology in the region.
The Asia Pacific commercial drone market is expected to see significant growth in the coming years, with a projected CAGR of 14% between 2023 and 2032. This is partly due to the presence of established companies like DJI Technology and Autel Robotics, as well as increasing awareness among organizations in the region of the potential civilian applications of drones.
The use of drones in construction engineering is expected to drive growth in countries like India as companies increasingly use drones to gather data on building sites.
Future Outlooks of Commercial Drones
Drones' Engines Will Get More Powerful
Currently, lithium batteries are the most widely used power source for drones. This technology is suitable for lighter wing-type drones or quadcopters for short distances. However, a more dependable and longer-lasting energy source will require more demanding tasks, such as carrying heavy payloads.
Drones Will Improve Due to AI
Human pilots currently operate drones, but with the advancement of technology, drones will be able to fly autonomously using predictive analytics and AI algorithms, eliminating the need for human pilots and making them more cost-effective in commercial operations.
Drones will make decisions on their own, such as avoiding collisions with other drones, buildings, and natural obstacles.
Businesses Will Adopt Drone-as-a-Service (DaaS) Model
The cost of commercial drones is high. When added to the expenses of infrastructure, services, and operators, it can be financially impractical for most businesses to own and maintain their fleet of drones.
Suppliers will introduce the Drone-as-a-Service (DaaS) concept to address this issue, where organizations can rent drones on-demand for a specific task. This can include aerial mapping, crop or livestock monitoring, or setting up a temporary mobile network using flying towers without having to own the drones themselves.
The commercial drone market is expanding quickly and is expected to continue growing. Governments at all levels are working to establish regulations to ensure the safe use of drones, which will allow more people to benefit from this technology as it matures.
As the cost of customizing commercial drones decreases, it will open up opportunities for new applications in various niche areas. Soon, future drones will perform everyday tasks such as automatically fertilizing crops, monitoring traffic, surveying inaccessible areas, and even delivering food.
References and Further Reading
Lazebnikov, Y. (2022). Drones of the future: 4 drone market trends for mindful entrepreneurs. Fast Company. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/90817155/drones-of-the-future-4-drone-market-trends-for-mindful-entrepreneurs.
Ahmed, F., Mohanta, J.C., Keshari, A. and Yadav, P.S. (2022). Recent Advances in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: A Review. Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering, 47(7), pp.7963-7984. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13369-022-06738-0
Castellano, F. (2019). Commercial Drones Are Revolutionizing Business Operations. Toptal. Available at: https://www.toptal.com/finance/market-research-analysts/drone-market.
GMI. (2022). Commercial Drone Market Size By Type (Fixed Wing Drone, Rotary Blade Drone, Hybrid Drone), By Mode of Operation (Remotely Operated, Semi-autonomous, Autonomous), By Application (Aerial Photography, Agriculture, Emergency Management, Inspection & Monitoring, Remote Sensing & Mapping, Wildlife Research & Preservation), COVID-19 Impact Analysis, Growth Potential, Regional Outlook, Competitive Market Share & Forecast, 2023 – 2032. Global Market Insights. Available at: https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/unmanned-aerial-vehicles-UAV-commercial-drone-market
Kandis Y. Wyatt. (2021). Drone Advancements and Their Benefits for Communities. American Public University System. Available at: https://apuedge.com/drone-advancements-and-their-benefits-for-communities/
Korosec, K. (2022). Zipline is now the national drone service provider for Rwanda. TechCrunch. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2022/12/15/zipline-is-now-the-national-drone-service-provider-for-rwanda/
DJI Enterprise. (2021). How drone solar inspections are increasing the efficiency of modern solar power plants. DJI. Available at: https://enterprise-insights.dji.com/user-stories/drone-solar-inspection-saves-time
E&T editorial staff. (2022). BT confirms £5m deal to launch the UK's first drone superhighway. The Institution of Engineering and Technology. Available at: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2023/01/bt-confirms-5m-deal-to-launch-the-uk-s-first-superhighway-for-drones/
Mordor Intelligence. (2023). North America Drones Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2023 - 2028). Mordor Intelligence. Available at: https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/north-america-drones-market
Mordor Intelligence. (2023). Asia-Pacific Drones Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2023 - 2028). Mordor Intelligence. Available at: https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/asia-pacific-drones-market
Mordor Intelligence. (2023). Europe Drones Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2023 - 2028). Mordor Intelligence. Available at: https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/europe-drones-market
DJI. (2022). About DJI: The Future of Possible. Available at: www.dji.com
Airobotics. (2022). Automated Drones. Available at: https://www.airoboticsdrones.com/
News Byte. (2017). Intel and Cyberhawk Inspect Gas Terminal through Lens of Commercial Drone Technology. Intel Newsroom. Available at: https://newsroom.intel.com/news/intel-cyberhawk-inspect-gas-terminal-lens-commercial-drone-technology/#gs.nw3a2k
Mark B. Thomas. (2017). FSU drone team assists in Hurricane Ida rescue and recovery effort. Florida State University News. https://news.fsu.edu/news/science-technology/2021/09/14/fsu-drone-team-assists-in-hurricane-ida-rescue-and-recovery-effort/