2017 was the biggest year for commercial drones yet. We saw drones used in almost every industry from archaeology to agriculture. More than 66,000 remote pilots were certified by the FAA in the the U.S. alone. And major companies have started scaling operations. It’s an exciting time for our industry. Here at DroneDeploy, we’ve been close to the action, helping companies large and small put drones to work. Our customers have used drones to improve safety, increase efficiency, cut costs, and drive ROI. We think this is just the beginning. What’s next as our industry continues to grow and mature in 2018? How will drones continue to transform workflows and generate insights in new and innovative ways? Read on to get DroneDeploy’s top 8 predictions for the commercial drone industry in 2018.
Consumerization isn’t a new trend. Tech giants like Apple and Google have been using this model for years to create products simple enough for the consumer, but powerful enough for the enterprise. (Hello, iPhone) The drone industry is no different.
You no longer need an engineering degree to get a drone in the air. Just look at DJI, its hardware is getting simpler—not more complicated—which is great for the industry. They have adopted a model that builds on top of an existing consumer platform to fast-track development for the enterprise while benefiting from economies of scale. Their latest drones are reliable, easy to use, and available at price points companies of all sizes can afford.
The DJI model has been hard for others to compete with, causing smaller manufacturers to halt production or pivot to an enterprise software model. According to Skylogic Research, DJI has now amassed an impressive 72% of the global market share for drone hardware (up from 50% in 2016). DJI’s growth will continue unless a more substantial, experienced hardware player enters the industry to compete, while other existing manufacturers remain to accommodate niche uses.
This likely means that fewer companies will get into hardware in 2018 as compared with previous years. We expect this will result in the majority of the industry’s growth to come from software and other service providers over the next year.
DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro is a great example of the consumerization being seen in commercial drone hardware. Seven 7 (more) outside players enter the industry
We expect this trend to continue as new partnerships form and deeper integrations merge with existing industry solutions. There is no shortage of interest in connecting drone data to everyday tools like CAD, BIM, GIS, and other software. A great example is the DroneDeploy Application Market which experienced tremendous growth in 2017. Today, there are more than 60 apps available—growing 328% since its launch in 2016. This trend will continue in 2018. As drones begin to gain traction in new industries, we expect to see more companies developing software solutions for drones and contributing to ecosystems like our App Market. 2017 was, without a doubt, the year of the enterprise drone program. At DroneDeploy, we saw the number of internal programs surge as companies decided to bring operations in-house. This is to be expected, just as IT departments began popping up when large firms started adopting computers.
A 2017 survey from Skylogic Research shows that the majority of companies currently flying drones are choosing to hire in-house employees (67%), while just 10% choose to contract out their services. Almost a quarter (23%) prefer a mix of both.
We expect the see more companies take this approach as drone adoption continues across major industries. But contracted services won’t disappear; they just won’t be as common in the enterprise when operations transition in-house. Drone service providers will continue to find work in niche markets and get contracted by small to medium-sized companies seeking drone data.
Many providers may also transition away from regional services to join larger nationwide providers, or consult with large companies setting up in-house operations. Larger companies need to develop specialized teams that are familiar with their challenges, workflows and can work full-time to meet the organization and industry demands.
Filed Under: Drones