Drone technology is mainstream. The hardware secrets are out and the price of a quadcopter with a 1080p camera is down to a hundred dollars. The commercial applications of drones are just starting to unfold. There are queues of companies waiting to capitalize on these flying automatons. These are the drone trends of 2017.
#1 Drones flying out of sight
The FAA may have banned drones leaving the operator’s line of sight. Hypocritical in some ways, but American delays aren’t stopping the rest of the world. Automated drones have wide applications. Construction, agriculture and energy sectors all many others see the benefit of using drones. For consumers autonomous drones offer the promise of a robot camera man.
#2 Drone companies going bust
Investment in drone start ups is declining. The marketplace has stabilized. Market leaders have emerged as have reverse engineered imports from Shenzen and beyond. The biggest drone trends for investors are now behind the scenes. Making commercial drones viable means specific software needs and autonomous control will have to be addressed. Integrating drones into the daily running of businesses, i.e. making them part of an infrastructure, is very costly. High entry barriers mean fewer competitors, specialist drone companies like DJI and more general technology companies occupy this space.
#3 Incredible cameras
Aside from the prize of autonomous camera man consumer drones are racing to improve camera quality, mobility, speed and stabilization. To make them quiet. To make them easy to fly. Some cool stuff is being done with first person perspective drones.
I can’t wait for Bird Simulator.
Having lots of small drones capable of flying in co-ordination has huge potential in researching weather systems. And for giving you nightmares. The Pentagon has developed drones capable of collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing abilities. Perdix can take a loss of several drones and rearrange to keep doing whatever it is they’re doing.
#5 Drone Taxis
If you scale up a quadcopter from half a meter in width to four or five and you can carry a person. EHANG demonstrated that this is possible with the 184.
Legislators and aviation agencies might be having panic attacks over this technology. For the committed futurist however there are plenty of places in the world looking to unleash innovation. Logistical star child Uber is exploring the possibility of aircraft capable of ferrying people around.
#7 Publicity stuns
Uber flew drones above grid locked roads in Mexico to announce its plans for expansion. Samsung dragged Casey Neistat over Lapland on a custom built mega drone. Amazon delivered some popcorn and a streaming device within 13 minutes of the order being placed.
— Bloomberg Technology (@technology) 13 October 2016
Drones have the oooh factors marketing craves because novelty is easy authenticity. Expect to see more efforts to excite you from above.
#6 Market growth
Most of all expect drones to keep getting bigger. The Federal Aviation Authority’s Aerospace Forecast Report predicts global sales and shipment to increase. 2.5 million consumer and commercial drones were sold in 2016, 2017 is expected to reach 4.8 million. Revenue from these sales will growth slowly from $2.3 billion in 2016 to $2.7 billion in 2017. This is due to the proliferation factor. Industrial growth is what will make the $100 billion marketplace predicted by many.
Drones are of most use as sensors. Whether its a visual sense they have or something else more industries will adopt drones as integration with existing software and patterns of business becomes easier. Autonomous vehicles are autonomous vehicles whether they fly or drive. The amount of funding pouring into driverless cars, currently more realistic than drone-taxis, will be felt in the drone industry due to this shared reliance on AI development.