There’s no arguing the drone industry growth that has occurred in the last few years. Total drone unit sales climbed to 2.2 million worldwide in 2016, and revenue surged 36% to $4.5 billion, and continued steadily through 2017 according to research firm Gartner. Drone sales continue to soar, the hardware market is setting down with a couple of dominant players emerging, and software has matured to support cutting-edge analysis designed around UAV collected data.
BI Intelligence expects sales of drones to surpass $12 billion in 2021, most of this will occur across the three main segments of the drone industry: Consumer Drones, Enterprise Drones (also known as Commercial Drones), and Government Drones. For us at GEO Jobe, the future looks bright, particularly with our UAV & Aerial Mapping group. The group is supporting our existing clients by enabling us to provide additional capabilities and meet the demands for rapid, affordable data update projects (think orthophotography). They’re also providing cutting-edge UAV solutions and services to new clients in a number of industries including: College and Campus planning/management, Utilities, Local Government, Commercial real estate, Mining, Construction, Airport facility management, and more.
With 2018 rapidly approaching, so to is the end of a very busy and successful year for our UAV team. Here we share a year-end predictions and outlook for UAV, Drones, and Aerial Mapping for 2018
GEO Jobe Team, UAV / Drone Industry Outlook &Predictions for 2018:
- Expect lots of talk and maybe some action around standardized state and local UAS regulations/restrictions. Clearer distinctions between the classes of sUAS pilots – Commercial (Part 107) and recreational and the different rules and regulations that apply to each.
- Continued progress with more FAA automated and “instant” flight authorizations for Part 107 Pilots.
- Expect further specialization or perhaps winnowing within the software industry. We think some developers will focus on the processing and viewing components, while others will focus on the capture side. It’s also not clear yet what the best practice for processing will be. Is the online processing better for most? or, will the direction head more to the desktop? While the SaaS model is strong in other industries and applications, will the size of the data involved in many UAS jobs and transfer bandwidth requirements and capacity overwhelm the advantage typical SaaS offer? Might there be a hybrid of local processing with web-based viewing that makes sense? We expect to see continued specialization by developers for value-added products within specific industry niches such utility inspection, construction etc. That isn’t new, but the level of granularity may increase. Cellular tower applications versus power transmission lines applications?
- sUAS is a creating a new demand for ground-level accuracy capture equipment (GPS). GPS Providers like Trimble are pushing toward more affordable software-defined GPS solutions on android phones with ground control point capture apps directed specifically at sUAS users.
- Will the new and increased use and therefore availability of LiDAR bring down those costs? Or will the increased demand just make it higher?
- RTK drones are already making their appearance. They currently need their own dedicated base station. Could there be the possibility of an RTK drone that connects to statewide or broader VRS automatically? That would eliminate the need for the base station and increase on site operational efficiencies. The localized single base station is also more susceptible to on-site obstructions and interference. A VRS connection could overcome much of those limitations.
- Current UAV use is leading to large photo capture datasets. Several platforms allow for the hosting and viewers for 3D Models and orthomosaics. But there will be a need to view online very large images and models well into the gigabytes range.
- Expect to see sUAS playing a huge role in the exploding Smart City initiatives. UAV captured orthos provide accurate high-resolution digital mapping products for base maps and source of feature extraction for use in GIS. Both critical elements in any smart city development. The sUAS technologies could provide a boost to the adoption of GIS as they make small or micro GIS base maps more cost-effective.
- We think that 2018 will actually produce an increase in demand for UAV providers. Currently, many engineering firms, surveyors, landscape architects and others are researching the idea of adding in-house UAV services. Many will find that for a number of reasons it will just be more cost effective to hire outside providers. Those firms that have enough demand for the service to deploy it on a daily or weekly basis may find it worthwhile. Those that don’t will probably find it better to outsource the service.
- The big question for the coming year where there is really no clear apparent consensus is – will this industry be called sUAS? or UAV? or drone? Or fly-by-night?!
Happy Holidays and Best of Luck in 2018! Remember, if you’d like some info on UAV services or related consulting, data cloud hosting, advice etc… feel ree to hit us up. We’d be glad to chat and we can even provide a price estimate on a job for you. You can connect with us on Twitter/Instagram @geojobeuav, on Facebook, LinkedIn or via email to connect at geo-jobe.com. See more at geo-jobe.com/uav