Professional Drone Markets: 2016 Calendar year in Review

Last yr at this time, I reflected again on the information and developments of the industrial drone markets of 2015 and wrote about the blended state of affairs in the U.S. Back again then we noticed only two,five hundred Part 333 grants for professional activity, and the press’s narrative that ‘drones are cool’ turned to ‘drones are a privacy invasion headache.’

drone in skyThis was tempered by a proliferation of the drone conferences that had the two exhibitors and suppliers scrambling to show up at. We also noticed the end result of the UAS Registration Job Drive Aviation Rulemaking Committee and the FAA’s quick implementation to set interest drone registration in area.

In January 2016, I wrote a piece titled Six Developments Driving the Business Drone Industry in 2016 and Past, which articulated that, even though generating predictions is not an exacting science, six developments would offer crucial opportunities and challenge for the industry:

1. Opposition
2. Fidelity
3. Sensors
4. Mobility
5. China Integrated
6. Digital and Augmented Fact

In this publish, I’ll assessment people tendencies as properly as other important information for drone producers, provider providers, and traders in 2016.

What rang accurate?


The biggest news all year was that the FAA Component 107 restrictions are now in place. And they’re not as onerous as they could have been. Hurray! We (at the very least in the U.S.) have the foundation for an business and a company regulatory framework upon which to increase.

And that’s what I saw and heard from so a lot of organizations that want to use drones for their firms at the significant drone shows. So a lot of had been sitting down on the sidelines ready for rules to be obvious.

Many weeks in the past, Patrick Egan of sUAS News wrote a piece known as “Part 107 Your Golden Ticket” that sums my thoughts and it’s this: There has been some grousing about what’s not in the rule. But there is loads of perform that can be completed underneath this rule.

The ten many years of uncertainty is over, and folks can start to offer services—from the actual estate agent who wants aerial photographs to the cellular business that needs tower inspection, to the insurance policy business that desires appropriate harm assessments, to the initial responder who needs a much better check out of an incident. I believe which is interesting.

And so is having competitors. A lot of think it’s a race to the bottom on charges for drone-based company services–and that’s correct in part–but the other side of the coin is there is healthier competitors, which delivers customer rewards. Because every person is working tougher to create a far better item.


The desire for much better fidelity – that is, better image and video resolution – is nevertheless a single of the significant motorists in the industrial drone sector. This is not just real for professional drones but also customer drones. Previous yr the key makes like Autel, DJI, and Yuneec continued to provide built-in 4K video clip recording cameras on buyer and prosumer drones, but they did so at reduce costs than in 2015.

Furthermore, this earlier calendar year, DJI upped the fidelity bar with its Phantom 4 Professional and Encourage 2. The Phantom four provides far more potent video clip processing for 4K movies at 60 frames for every 2nd (fps) at a a hundred Mbps bitrate. The Inspire 2 tops that and offers five.2K at thirty fps on the X4S digital camera.

These also offer a mechanical shutter, reducing the rolling shutter distortion that can arise when using photos of fast-transferring topics or when traveling at high pace. In impact, they are as strong as numerous classic floor cameras.


The trend for far better and more compact, more light-weight sensors for drones—such as stereoscopic, ultrasonic, LiDAR, infrared, and spectral sensors – was sizzling. I wrote about some of that in Perception and Steer clear of for Drones is No Effortless Feat.

I could fill a modest guide with all the announcements, investments, and item releases from firms like DJI, Intel, Parrot, SenseFly, Slantrage, and Velodyne this earlier calendar year. All of these will help drones perform duties like collision avoidance, 3D imaging infrared thermography, or enhanced crop vigor evaluation.

But the climbing star in the sensor market place is Aerotenna. In July, we observed this startup consider home initial prize at the NASA UTM Drone Feeling and Avoid Tech Competition.

It turns out Aerotenna has some amazing new technology–microwave sensors (that’s essentially miniature radar) that are coupled with active sensing autopilot capacity that scans the environment in the course of flight and avoids prospective collisions autonomously.

So by combining microwave-dependent sensing with aerospace and management engineering, they are resolving numerous problems of being capable to fly autonomously beyond visual line-of-sight. This will uncover new purposes for UAV platforms.

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A 3rd major driver this past yr was mobility. In the client world, the scales have tipped from PCs and Television set to mobile devices. What this signifies for drone makers and services providers is that their software growth has shifted from desktop to cellular applications.

In 2016, we observed DroneDeploy double down on this craze with the introduction of an Application Marketplace, a keep for drone programs from a assortment of companies—including Autodesk, Box, John Deere, and thirteen others—as nicely as a variety of market verticals.

I wrote about that below. The App Industry includes cellular system applications from Airmap, Dronelogbook, Flyte, Kittyhawk, NV Drone, Skyward, and Verifly that assist pilots and companies deal with drone operations and compliance.

In a nutshell, these applications allow enterprises and drone-dependent enterprise services providers to automate their workflow and knowledge integration with specialised tools created right inside of the DroneDeploy consumer interface.

China Integrated

During 2016, Chinese companies the two massive and modest entered the world industry with buyer drones to build market share or enhance it.

Do I truly want to describe this? Tractica (not identified for exact commercial drone forecasts) says customer drone product sales will keep on to surge in excess of the following several many years, with global yearly device shipments growing more than tenfold from six.4 million in 2015 to 67.nine million by 2021.

While average offering charges (ASPs) for drones will continue to decline sharply during that interval, they foresee that complete profits will enhance from $one.9 billion in 2015 to $5. billion in 2021. I will not argue with those numbers.

What did not ring correct?

Digital and Augmented Reality

Digital and augmented fact for drones was a bust this calendar year. Significantly. I expected to see a important announcement from someone about the use of augmented actuality using the information from commercial drones, but all I obtained was this lousy t-shirt.

What else occurred?

Expense, mergers, and partnerships. That’s what took place. The key gamers have been Airware, DJI, Intel, and Parrot. In September, Airware obtained Redbird with the intent of creating a full-stack drone providers empire. All all through 2016, DJI declared partnerships with at least fourteen businesses including Epson, Ford, Leica, Luftansa, Evaluate, and PrecisionHawk.

The shock way too many of us was just how aggressive Intel received in the drone place this earlier calendar year. They acquired drone maker Ascending Technologies, produced a more expense in data services provider PrecisionHawk, and purchased Movidius and Mavinci.

Parrot took a diverse method. They continued with their earlier technique which was to make investments. Preceding investments integrated Pix4D, Airnov, and MicaSense.

This 12 months Parrot created three minority investments in BioCarbon Engineering Ltd., a British isles organization that is building a drone-based mostly reforestation answer, Planck Aerosystems Inc., a US firm that is establishing drone-primarily based surveillance answers for the Navy, and Nano Racing S.A.S., a French business that is establishing a little-scale immersion-piloted racing drone.

What about subsequent year?

There ended up some tough lessons realized this past year and they stage to trends I believe we’ll see up coming year. For example, just take Jonathan Downey’s eight Classes Realized Turning Aerial Knowledge into Organization Outcomes.

If you read between the strains, you’ll see a brutally trustworthy confession of their hard moments. Knowledge will come from knowledge and kudo’s to Jonathan for providing the commercial drone industry some very good advice–especially #3: To drive enterprise results, supply an stop-to-conclude resolution.

So, what did the stakeholders say to FAA? At the Professional UAV Expo I read a single say they instructed the FAA that their forecast was as well lower.

Most said we’re heading to see tens of millions–maybe hundreds of millions–of drones flying in national airspace in the close to potential.” What else would they say? That is what they informed their traders. Crazy.

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