The United States drone market is expected to exceed $18 Billion in 2020


Here is a snapshot of the current state of drones registered with the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA)  

  • 1,668,243 drones registered
    • 479,902 registered for commercial use
    • 1,184,839 registered for recreational use
    • 186,292 pilots certified.

Five years ago registration figures, such as, these were not possible. For drones were mainly used to only fulfill specific use cases, such as, military, public safety/homeland security and natural resource applications.

No longer.

Drones are increasingly being deployed by commercial industries, such as, agricultural, construction, delivery/logistics, entertainment, energy, events, insurance, pest control and utility as a strategic asset. In other words, almost anyone can now find a commercial use for a drone, from vegetation management to emergency medical supply deliveries.

The challenge is making the better business case to evaluate how best to use drone technology. To create value in a reasonable amount of time, with minimal technical and operational risk. Traditionally, a return on investment (ROI) calculation was performed to determine whether or not drones made sense, e.g.  will this particular investment be affordable.

Recently, many commercial entities have dropped strict ROI calculations in favor of return on equity (ROE) business case conversations. Generally performing cost benefit calculations or comparisons. That now measure asset utlliization or some other performance metric, such as, inventory counting or labor cost savings. That are linked to improving employee productivity or processes, such as, increased asset uptime, improving data capture or lowering storage costs.

ROE business cases vary by industry, resource needs and operational roles, for example, drones may supplant existing processes and technologies for vegetation management and only augment logistics.  No matter the industry, the risks involved for using drones are now perceived as manageable. Whether it is a theft of the drone itself, a data breach or other vulnerability the hardware and software are easily configurable to minimize business disruptions. Reducing these types of risks allows for more freedom in developing business cases. In support of using drone technology for more strategic  business objectives or needs.

Why the change?

  • Improving market conditions and more innovation. The  (FAA) is modifying its regulatory position. To encourage commercial drone adoption that focuses more on pilots not products. In addition, Artificial Intelligence equipped drones have significantly improved safety (collision avoidance) and navigation (urban environments).
  • Proliferation of data capture better optimizes time and resources, reduces inaccuracies and extends data for multiple comparative uses.
  • Being cool. Momentum for using commercial drones is building. Commercial sectors, such as, logistic and retail sectors. are popularizing drone usage. I capture this momentum in my blog post where I compare the pros and cons for owning drones or paying for services. see,   Time For DaaS Model
  • Total investment is coming down.  The initial outlay for a commercial-grade drone to operate includes, hardware and software, parts, power supplies, liability insurance and training personnel.
  • Data quality and integration. Due to cloud-based processing technologies, more robust data management policies and procedures now allow for data to be downloaded in real time and to be integrated with  IoT, mobile devices, sensors and  enterprise asset management systems.


What Do You Think?

Author Disclosure

I am a practicing attorney and the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I have no vested interest in any of the products, firms or institutions mentioned in this post. Nor does the Analyst Syndicate. This is not a sponsored post.