Top industry analyst Colin Snow of Skylogic Research follows 72 different forecasts – and he disagrees with most of them. Market research estimates for the drone industry vary widely, and data sources are often unclear. But using large sets of market data from user surveys, Snow’s team at Skylogic offers strong insight into who is leading the drone market, and which industries are driving drone adoption.
Accurately predicting the drone industry isn’t easy. While Snow agrees that the industry is growing fast, he points out that drone sales don’t always equal fleet numbers as estimated by government agencies. There’s a huge gap, says Snow, between actual commercial use and compliance with FAA regulations.
The industry is growing fast – but new commercial operators are searching for ways to differentiate themselves in the market. “Part 107 has created a low-risk barrier to entry,” Snow tells the audience at DroneDeploy‘s user conference this morning. “This has created a current glut of certified sUAS remote pilots.” Those new pilots need to look at industry trends to see where to put their resources in training and hardware.
Who’s Leading the Industry?
Drone hardware has a clear industry winner. “More and more consumer drones are being used for commercial use,” says Snow. His data shows that 72% of operators purchase DJI drones. 68% of those DJI customers are using their drone for commercial operations.
“DJI is the leader for many reasons, ” Snow comments. “Including the fact that they support a standardized workflow.”
The top ways that those commercial operators are using drones? Snow says that one thing many analysts miss is the huge market of film/photo/video which makes up more than 40% of the market. After that, the top use cases are in surveying and terrain mapping, asset and infrastructure inspection, public safety and first responders, and agriculture.
Those top uses, however, don’t exactly mirror the top income opportunities for drone operators. Of the top drone companies earning over $100k per year, survey/mapping/GIS tops the list of services they provide.
Snow says that there is a lack of consensus on which industries are leading the way in future growth. That’s because of the different levels of use case maturity – how long a particular industry has been using drone technology. “Digitization varies by industry,” Snow says, “as does business risk aversion.” Public infrastructure, for example, offers a huge potential market – but can be slow to change the way that they do business and adopt new technology. Measuring both use case maturity and potential growth, insurance stands out as a major growth vertical.
What’s Coming Next?
While Snow acknowledges that advertising abounds indicating AI is already here, he says that the technology hasn’t yet been able to match their solution perfectly with a problem. “It’s coming,” he says. “But we’re not there yet.” He sees improvements in imaging, cloud-based and edge AI, asset management systems, and unmanned traffic management tools (UTM) as major areas for growth in the next year.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.