Expected commercial drone trends in 2017

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Time to play the crystal ball oracle for the yearly prophecy on the drone industry. Or to put it slightly more seriously;  better provide an accurate statement on the 2017 drone trends or else fail miserably in my forecasts.

Starting with the assessment of industry growth, I would state that the main driver for growth lies in expanded industry adoption, drone services (or even drone as a service), software and ecosystem integration.

Business Insider indicates, “a growing ecosystem of drone software and hardware vendors is already catering to a long list of clients in agriculture, land management, energy and construction.” It predicts that the growth in the enterprise sector will overtake the consumer sector.

The perceived top five commercial drone markets in 2017 include inspection/construction, agriculture, civil/local governments incl. police, fire departments, coast guard etc., insurance claims and offshore oil/gas and refining.

7 expected commercial drone trends in 2017

1. Productivity: Without a doubt, there will be more focus on results rather than technology advancements, it’s all about productivity, or as a friend and colleague so often states, – “it’s not about the drone, it’s about what you can achieve with it”. Here also quality and endurance are key words, and we can expect advancements in both areas. I would sum it up in what we at SmartPlanes call “Operational availability”

2. Modularity: Thus, while I expect a huge number of new, improved and innovative features from the market, I also expect that there will be a trend towards more and more modular designs. At the end of the day it comes down to being able to perform as many different types of workloads as possible, as service provider companies will need diversity to increase their market share and their ability to grow.

3. VR & AR: We can probably expect a huge boost from virtual and augmented reality technology. There’s already ideas about capturing 3D models with drones in order to provide construction companies a virtual tour of sites’ progress, where seamless integration with CAD models can provide architects with a tool for issue identification and problem solving. In search & rescue, natural disaster management, and nature conservation, AR can provide personnel with much-needed visualizations of inaccessible areas.

4. Connectivity: Drone connectivity through the 4/5G networks is expected to skyrocket. With more advanced control systems and more advanced sensors arriving on the market every day, and potentially BVLOS capabilities with video live feed and real time data, the sheer amount of data transfer will far exceed what we see today. And while there may be room for more stand-alone solutions, the expectation is that the 4/5G networks will have to deal with most of this data growth.

5. BVLOS: BVLOS flights will undoubtedly open doors to many new opportunities, be it delivery of goods, surveillance or other, and we will start to see truly autonomous systems in use. It also comes with its own set of challenges. This I have discussed in a previous blog post, you can read about it here.

6. Commercial drone flights over people: Commercial drone operators have been waiting for new rules that could help to move some commercial drone applications, such as city planning survey, drone delivery, real estate, surveillance and news and media applications, forward.

7. Further legislation: The commercial drone industry will have to deal with increasing number of local laws that restrict drone operation. It is essential that effort is spent on making drone safety a top topic for manufacturers, living up to the demands from legislative branches.

Roger Ohlund, CMO SmartPlanes

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