Top industries for drone applications revealed

So; which industries have taken drone technology like a duck to water?

Many might be tempted to ask this question, as if the answer were completely straightforward.

However, defining the top drone applications depends on whether we are focused on an industry, a method, or a specific goal (like saving costs, increasing revenue, saving time). We’ve previously written about the way drones revolutionize business, and in less than a year since our previous post, drone investments have more than doubled from their previous year, and the global drone market is still forecast to grow at a rate of almost 10 percent CAGR.

So, with the release of our latest research, it’s time to pick up the topic again and elaborate on some ways to define top drone applications.

Top drone applications per Industry and Method

As our infographic shows, the top three industries for drone technology are: Energy, Construction, and Agriculture. The percentages shown are as a measure of all drone applications within our seventeen industry verticals (rather than a measure of drone adoption rate within each industry).

This means that fourteen percent of all drone applications take place within the Energy industry vertical, followed by twelve percent taking place in Construction, and nine percent in Agriculture. Combined, these industry verticals represent more than one third (35 percent) of drone applications, meaning that those are the top drone applications in terms of industry.

The infographic also shows that the top drone application methods are Mapping and Surveying (34 percent), Inspections (25 percent), and Photography and Filming (ten percent).

In comparison to the industries, the methods are much more consolidated since the top three drone application methods represent 69 percent of the market. This may not be too surprising to drone professionals because those are the activities where drones bring some of the biggest advantages in comparison to a human. Inspecting a large infrastructure, mapping/surveying a vast piece of land, or using aerial photography/filming with a drone instead of a person makes the process faster, safer, and captures more and better data.

(Well; we do appreciate that drone technology has come and made many tasks safer in the energy, construction and agriculture industries and their related verticals – but we are still a teeny-weeny bit surprised and a little disappointed to note that drone applications in medical delivery have been so little worldwide to even make a dent on Drone Industry Insights’ infographic.

This is all despite the life saving impact medical drones have made to many countries in Africa; and the inroads they are starting to make in Japan, the USA and Australia. This too, despite medical drone logistics company Zipline topping the list of Drone Service providers in 2019, ahead of companies that offer drone services in energy, construction and agriculture industries.

Our uneducated guess is that uptake for drone technology in medical and general package delivery is slow because there are a lot more legal requirements for delivery drones to fulfil, given that they would be usually flying over people and public places in busy airspaces too.

It is easier to fly an inspection or security drone around a private energy or construction premises – flights are low, within the pilot’s visual line of sight almost of the times; and the drones does not have to compete for airspace with other traffic.

That is not something you can say for delivery drones, which have to cover greater distances well beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.

Still, we have hope though – saving lives through medical drone delivery can be a priceless undertaking).

However, it is crucial to recall that the share of methods is different for each industry vertical. For instance, in the Energy sector, most of the time drones are used to carry out inspections, which ranks as the second-highest overall application method.

Therefore, it would not be accurate to assume that the top drone application is a combination of the top industry (Energy) along with the top method (Mapping and Surveying). For this reason, it is imperative to always carry out due diligence before starting a drone business.

Case studies of top drone applications

Some of the primary use cases in the Energy sector include inspection of pipelines, wind turbines and oil storage tanks. By using a drone instead of a person, the inspector does not need to enter to dangerous areas, and the powerline/turbine that is being inspected usually does not have to be shut down to guarantee human safety, which means it continues to operate and generate revenue.

Some examples of the top drone applications in Agriculture include drones that count trees and livestock, spray fields, analyse crops, and carry out dozens of tasks throughout acres of fields in a matter of hours. This means that productivity is increased because crops can be monitored better and treated in a more targeted manner throughout the year, which leads to better yields during harvest season.

The Public Administration sector consists of government agencies who manage some programs like environmental quality programs, housing programs and urban planning. Several companies carry out activities that support these programs for the government. Among other activities, they might carry out drone-based water sampling to monitor the quality of the water and mapping coastal area in order to find plastic waste. But these are not the only government-related activities that might be considered top drone applications.

Governmental agencies like police and fire departments belong to another industry vertical consisting of Public Emergency Services. We consider this a separate industry vertical because it involves activities that are of a different nature (that is, reacting to unexpected events rather than administrating routine or supervisory activities).

One case of a top drone application in this sector includes using aerial cameras to assess the area during or after a fire. By deploying a drone, firefighters can access visual and thermal data to understand the status of a fire and estimate which action to take at which point in time.

Finding the best application

All of this once again shows that drone applications are manifold, extremely diverse, and very much industry-specific. Throughout various industries, drone technology helps save costs, save time, increase the quality of results, and improves worker safety – and the top drone applications often do three or all four of these things.

And it’s worth noting that this does not necessarily mean flying very often. One or two missions with a high return on investment in a specific niche can be much more beneficial.

Finding a niche requires understanding what is already out there. Beating the competition or expanding from one niche to another requires understanding where you can leverage the existing drone technology stack.

From: Drone Industry Insights


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