AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands — New research says the commercial drone application space, which generated €16 billion (about $18 billion) last year, is projected to grow to nearly €38 billion ($42.5 billion) by 2024. Driving the growth of commercial drones include the energy, construction, and agricultural sectors, with all three expected to see continued growth in the future.
The research study by German research firm Drone Industry Insights, which will debut at Commercial UAV Expo Europe, describes how the drone industry has already developed and will continue developing by sector.
The most important uses of drones involve aerial imagery, inspections, mapping & surveying. Specific examples include inspections of infrastructure, surveying of construction sites and monitoring crops. In agriculture, drones are even being used to locate and identify crop disease.
Rapid industry growth to continue
By 2024, the market for commercial drone applications will more than triple from its 2018 level, the research stated.
Kay Wackwitz, CEO and founder of Drone Industry Insights, said there are several drivers behind this growth. First, the importance and usefulness of drones is finding increasing recognition. “Drone technology is becoming increasingly accepted. The commercial drone market is still in the early adopters’ phase, but we are quickly transitioning to the early majority phase when it comes to adoption.”
According to the innovation theory of sociologist Everett Rogers, these are the forerunners of the big majority that lead to the product becoming adopted and sold on a much larger scale. Countries such as the U.S., Japan, China, France, and Germany are taking the lead in this regard.
However, various developments in India are also important. Indian airspace will soon be opened for the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles. “This will create a big new market for manufacturers as well as service providers”, said Wackwitz.
Identifying industry trends
In addition to hard data, the research also identifies various trends. Wackwitz points to the emerging usage of drones for the transport of medical goods or even people. Such applications are growing exponentially in countries where there is little or no transportation infrastructure, or where traffic in densely populated areas simply prevents quick transport.
“In Rwanda, a network has been established in which drones fly from one hospital to the other with (often life-saving) medications; in the rainy season, roads simply become impassable. And in mountainous Switzerland, a company named Matternet transports blood samples and other emergency materials from and to hospitals, clinics, and laboratories,” said Wackwitz.
When it comes to transporting people, Wackwitz points to Uber’s ambitious plans. “Under the name of Uber Elevate, the company aims to build hubs on the main traffic routes in the cities. The vision is to have a major hub with the capacity of up to 1,000 takeoffs and landings per hour.” Partner cities including Dubai, Singapore, Dallas, and Los Angeles have been selected for the project, due to their persistent traffic and need for mobility alternatives.
While all signs point towards continued growth in the drone industry, Wackwitz notes that “most of the companies don’t make their finances public; they won’t do so for strategic reasons. But we were able to identify other ways of finding the necessary data.” Drone Industry Insights said it has monitored the commercial drone market for more than four years, and spent the last two years building a bottom-up market model to collect their findings.
The Commercial UAV Expo Europe focuses on drone solutions for the commercial services market and the construction, energy & utilities, agriculture & forestry, infrastructure & transport, safety & emergency services, and surveying & mapping sectors. This includes the use of drones for visual imaging, monitoring, and mapping & surveying. The event and related conference was first held in 2017, with the previous edition in 2018 also being hosted in Amsterdam.