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What Will Happen in the Drone Industry in 2017?

You can tell how popular a product has become simply by paying attention to what children write on their Christmas list. In recent years, Drones have been showing up more and more. There are many factors that have lead to this but one of the primary factors is the cost. Consumer drones prices are getting cheaper and cheaper but looking at the industry as a whole, consumers are just a portion of the addressable drone market.

Businesses, enterprise, and governments are some of the hottest market segments that drone companies are targeting but with growing competition and an uncertain regulatory future, the future of drones remains uncertain. What is certain however is that drones are here to stay and they aren’t getting anywhere. The uncertainty is really just about what the impact of drones will be on the world as they continue to grow in popularity.

To find out what the future of drones will look like, we wanted to see what the experts had to say. So, we connected with 12 drone industry experts with the following question:

What will happen in the drone industry in 2017?

Here’s what we found out…

Mark Goetze, Co-Founder, Motion RC









“We will see an overall slowdown in consumer demand due to a lack of new features to attract customers. The market saturated with over 100 manufacturers selling near identical models and this is leading to lower prices for consumers but overall lower profit margins for manufacturers and resellers. The near-term growth in drones will likely come from commercial sectors/applications such as law enforcement, forestry, farming, real estate, and the motion picture industry.”

Thomas Haun, Sr. Vice President,  PrecisionHawk

“2017 is shaping up to be another pivotal year for the drone industry. After last year’s new drone regulations were released by the FAA, we saw an immediate increase in interest for our commercial drone platform. With drones more accessible, this momentum will continue throughout the year. Drone data has already proven to be a valuable source of business intelligence, especially within the industries of agriculture, mining and insurance. As demand grows for these services, there will be renewed attention to safety standards that mitigate the risk of hazardous drone flights. For the commercial potential of drones to be realized, companies must address not only the vast business opportunities but also the ways to achieve success without increasing risk. This philosophy guides us as we continue to grow our platform in 2017 and beyond.”

Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq., Rupprecht Law

“The drone community will continue to wake up to the fact the drone industry is part of the aviation industry, not toy industry. It is extremely important that drone pilots and drone companies realize that the regulatory walls will not crumble under a volley of technology or dreams catapulted at them. Facts, not feelings, are what the FAA uses to determine their risk-based approach to the integration of drone into the national airspace system. You make not like it or agree with it, but the sooner you learn this, the better you can position yourself to be legal and profitable.”

Anton Dy Buncio, COO, VIATechnik

“Drone industry in 2017? The interesting differentiation will come at the specialized application drone market. Low-cost commoditized drones will continue to push low quality ‘toys’ with consumers shopping purely on price. On the higher end drone segment, we will see the usual suspects going after specialized applications for the professional film, construction, and government sectors. What will be exciting is seeing value added applications being built on drone platforms that automate a lot of the human control and analysis functions.”

Michael Faro, President/CEO of Mota

“Drones will start evolving into everyday lives in a way that is “noticeable” and beyond photo and video; from people being able to stream directly from drone to their favorite social media channel. Similar to what happened during the computer revolution era, Drone companies will look into transitioning to a uniform structure (OS) to control their drone, whether on open-source (similar to what Linux/unix is for computers) to proprietary (similar to windows is for computers). Aviation Legislation will start to take effect around the globe creating a safe distance between humans and machines, which would force the manufacturers to make smarter drones (obstacle avoidance, no fly zone, etc), and that is the start of a much bigger change in the industry for coming years: integration of robots and drones!”

Charles Markman, Co-Founder, Co-CEO of Galaxy Media Co

“Due to the establishment of Part 107 by the FAA, the drone aerial services industry will be much more competitive because the low financial barrier to entry now combined with a low regulatory barrier to entry will allow for any entrepreneur with a few hundred dollars to his name the ability to start his/her own business. (2) The drone industry will begin to be defined by the software of each drone manufacturer, not just the hardware. Pilots will establish brand loyalty based on the software they are comfortable with and the features they like. Smartphone users have had to choose Apple, Google, or Microsoft, now drone pilots will have to choose DJI, Parrot, or GoPro. While early adopters have shown no brand loyalty, manufacturers will force loyalty as the companies produce more products compatible only with their own products and their own software.”

Nicolia L. Wiles, Director of Digital for GDU

“2017 will see a lot of changes for the global drone market – from the crash of some major players to fundamental changes in business models and desired feature sets. Too many manufacturers are attempting to copy each other and compete for the exact same market — treating drones only as a means of aerial photography/videography. This market is getting smaller as more and more weekend warriors are keeping their drones for longer periods. Professionals want more from a drone and expect modularity – the ability to use multiple cameras, not just the one it comes with. The future will be won by those that treat drones as a real tool. The commercial/industrial market will only get bigger from here as modularity becomes the big trend. Having one platform and being able to mount multiple, specialized tools/cameras to a drone will make them more usable and increase their ROI to this market.”

Andy Von Stauffenberg, VStar Systems

“In the next 12 months, as drones become more common it is my belief that we will begin to see the wider adoption of UAV insurance. The fact that #Crashmas was trending on Twitter due to the number of drone crashes on Christmas morning is almost proof enough. Scenarios like this will surely repeat itself until people begin to internalize that drones are not toys. They are aircraft! On a much smaller scale, yes, but aircraft nonetheless. And drones operated in an unfit manner can have some real impacts. Literally. UAV insurance would help bring certainty and eliminate the general public¹s apprehension toward drones by implementing a clear plan for when accidents happen. As the New Year progresses, more and more companies (and #Crashmas victims) will advocate that UAV Insurance should be a requirement for drone operators. For the unexpected scenarios on a rainy day. Or the occasional wedding day.”

Charles Mudd Jr., Principal of Mudd Law

“The mass consumer market for drones really emerged in 2016. With developing technologies, the number of drones sold will continue to grow in 2017. We will also see growth in the depth of the consumer drone market through an increase in the number and type of drone businesses. At the same time, we will see increased tension between drone operation and public safety. As the number of drones and drone pilots increases, so too will the frequency of drone-related accidents and injuries. Consequently, more businesses will emerge focused on drone safety (eg online courses, physical courses, drone clubs, etc.) and the training of amateur drone operators (professional drone pilots must obtain licenses). 2017 will also see more local municipalities consider implementation of land use regulations restricting drone operations in situations of heightened public safety concerns (eg no drones over schools, public, or public parks).”

Jack Wu, CEO & Co-Founder, Nightingale Security

“In 2017, the drone is going to become a first responder whenever there are major events unfolding. Fires, floods, earthquakes or terrorist attacks are prime examples. And smaller, local events like search and rescue or tracking a criminal will also be common applications. As first responders, drones are going to give us situational awareness like we’ve never had before. Using drones as our eyes in the sky, the power of Professor X will soon be attainable by us non-mutants.”

Kevin Gallagher, co-founder, CEO, President of Simulyze, Inc.

“In 2017, data management will be a key focus for commercial drone operators to fly safely in the same airspace as manned flights and other UAVs and beyond visual line of sight. There is a huge amount of data that is needed to fly a drone commercially – data about flight plans, UAV operational information like velocity and position, weather, winds and cloud base, and terrain, obstacles and restricted areas, as well as all the data collected by the UAV, like imagery, video or mapping data. All of this data need to be processed, analyzed and visualized in all phases of operations and coordinated with an air traffic management system, which can be very time intensive. Expect to see greater prominence of operational intelligence platforms that can manage these data sources in real time and deliver a common operating picture that will help UAS operators achieve situational awareness.”

Derek Waleko, CEO Up Sonder

“The FAA will eliminate the line-of-sight requirement and give companies freedom to put drones to work. The drone superhighway is coming and creative solutions are being drafted to ensure commercial drones get up and stay up. However, Moore’s law doesn’t apply to battery technology, which means drones flying hours at a time on a single charge won’t be possible anytime soon. The industry recognizes this and companies like Amazon and Up Sonder are starting to build the infrastructure needed to power the drone industry, literally. Amazon has already filed patents for drone charging docks on top of city and commercial property and Up Sonder is taking advantage of the more than 80 million residential rooftops around the US by getting permission from its members to install similar charging docks. 2017 efforts will allow future drones to fly to wireless charging docks between deliveries, power up, and continue delivering goods.”

About the author

Nick Hastreiter

I write about the future of business. I approach this by interviewing founders, CEO's, and other game changers to share their vision for the future of their industry.

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