Drones: An Industry Taking Off

Shot from the movie Ready Player One

From the deadly scene of drones placing bombs to the fantasized scene of drones delivering pizza in the movie Ready Player One, the prevalence of drones seem to be something way far out in the future. In fact, the Black Mirror episode on how tiny bee like drones assassinating people seem to put them in a negative light. While we might not be getting a Black Mirror type future any time soon, that future of non-maned commercial drone in your backyard might be closer than you think.

Consumer Drones:

The commonly owned drones started off as remote controlled airplanes adopted by hobbies who slowly began to use their phones as rudimentary piloting systems in the late 2000s. They started attaching accelerators, gyroscopes, and faster chips. Eventually, the simple remote controlled drone could eventually be adopted by a user in an afternoon with some basic coding background. In 2010, as phones became faster and cheaper, Parrot’s $300 quadcopter was introduced; one could use VR to pilot a drone on their smartphone. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that the more advanced and nimble drones could be purchased on the market. China’s DJI, Da-Jiang Innovation, released the Phantom to the public. A two pound quadcopter ready to use right after purchase blew people away as it could flying back to the owner if the connection was lost and perform stunts in the air by a simple command. The Phantom was backpack and GoPro compatible, expanding into a whole new group of customers who filmed and traveled. I even remember one of my friends filming our high school’s cross country races and graduation ceremony; he later released very impressive footage.

Image result for Parrot quadcopter 2010

As time passed, drones developed abilities to re-balance in strong winds, have half hour battery lives, fly and film miles away from its owner, and avoid obstacles on its own. The price tag for an ‘all capable’ drone eventually dropped to $1000. DJI’s drones would take up more than 70 percent of the consumer market as Shenzhen provided an unrivaled manufacturing efficiency. DJI’s Phantom now boasts all sort of terrain mapping capabilities, and it continue to expand into the industrial drone market.

Industrial Drones:

Drones eventually made it global industries such as the construction, agriculture, insurance claims, offshore oil/gas and refining, and other industries. From assisting rescue teams and police forces to delivering vaccines and meals, commercial flying robots can do and go where humans couldn’t. They were dispensable, and took on roles such as surveillance, exploration, mapping and filming devices. Drones provided humans safety as they substituted dangerous jobs.

Industrial Drone usage for surveillance
Video of drones spotting sharks for nearby surfers

Large Corporations And Regulations :

Google, Amazon, UPS and Delivery and other large corporations have all invested in drone R&D and prepare to roll out their new airborne products and services as regulation loosen. Delivery drones provide incredible savings on operation costs as well as shortened delivery times.

visual 1

Just as drones provide safety, they also threaten our everyday well being. A consumer drone with razor sharp propellers traveling at 60+ miles/hr could fatally injury any civilians. From the well known explosive drone assassination attempt of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to the reports of drones disrupting airport traffic, the need for regulations has never been greater. The Federal Aviation Association(FAA) is in charge of creating a regulatory framework in the US. It’s predicted, with a plan set by the FAA, that commercial drones will permitted to fly over crowds in 2020. The opened regulation will lend opportunities to companies to use drone for commercial use. On the other hand, NASA is in the midst of developing a framework for drone trafficking.

Future Predictions:

While the US has one of the strictest regulations for drones, the US is predicted to spend more than twice the amount on drones than the rest of the world. As predict regulations loosen in 2020, the industry will surely takeoff. Goldman Sachs predicts 7.8 million customer drone shipments, and 3.3 billion dollars in revenue in the consumer drone market in 2020. It’ll be very exciting to see more drones appearing in the skies in the next couple of years.

5 thoughts on “Drones: An Industry Taking Off

  1. Very informative post! Why am I not surprised from your comment for my post last week that you are super interested in drone. I like all the stats and charts of how drones are used in different industries and how people feel about this relatively new technology. From the first time I see a drone on TV (in The Smurfs 2) to my brother buying a Parrot’s Jumping Sumo, I have always just thought of drones as a fancy new toy for the rich. It is great to see how drones can be used for photography, delivery, national security and other aspects.

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  2. Awesome post! Really cool to see the transformation of drones from toys to really useful machines! I absolutely love drone photography, although that seems like a small part of the market ($-wise). Another interesting company using drones is called Zipline which uses drones to drop medical supplies(blood for transfusion, for example) to remote places that otherwise wouldn’t have access to these services. As an aside: I just saw yesterday in the news that a man in Georgia was arrested for trying to use a drone to drop drugs into a prison, though maybe this is a proof-of-concept for using drones for product (not drug) delivery by companies like Amazon.

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  3. Awesome stuff. I personally have always wanted the DJI drone yet prices are still quite high. Sure you can get a lower quality drone now for cheap, however, I would think an investment for the higher quality drones is worth it. Looking forward to seeing how else drones will be implemented into society.

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  4. Great post! I’ve never really thought about all the potential uses of drones that could better our society. I love the example of using drones to monitor the sharks on Sydney beaches through the app, Shark drone. I would love if we could have this for beaches in the Cape, since sharks are starting to become more prevalent in that area. I think its going to be interesting to see what regulations are put in place to keep these drones from being used for malice. I wonder if there will ever be a “drone traffic control” similar to how they have “air traffic control.”

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  5. Drones are definitely something I am looking forward to seeing more of. However, I think one of the big things companies like Amazon will have to worry about is security. What exactly is stopping someone from hitting the drone out of the sky and taking the package? Is there any way to track that type of stuff? I just do not understand how they will handle that. Still I can’t wait to find out. Nice post!

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