The 2019 DroneDeploy user conference kicked off in San Francisco this morning, and the growth of the show is an indication of how much DroneDeploy – and the industry – has grown. At this morning’s packed keynote address, co-founder Jono Millin pointed out that drones now touch every aspect of life. From forestry and mining that support building, to the agriculture that feeds the people, drones are now part of those complex and critical operations.
“We’re now in what they are calling the fourth industrial revolution,” says Millin. Through drone data, he says, “For the first time ever, you can go back in time and measure anything… you can go back and answer questions that you didn’t know you had at that time.”
DroneDeploy has been a major part of the drone mapping part of that revolution – announcing this morning that over 1,000,000 maps and more than 100 million acres have been processed on the platform. That’s the kind of experience that leads to innovation and development: it’s momentum that provides the company with insights about technology innovation and customer needs. “Innovation is not a straight line,” says co-founder and CEO Mike Winn. “Ideas are easy: execution is everything…There are all sorts of challenges to get through. As an industry we’ve been working through those challenges.”
The Hype Cycle May Be Over – But Growth is Exponential
Winn acknowledges that according to the Gardner “Hype Cycle” model, the hype may be over for the drone industry – but he points out that real data on registered commercial drones indicates strong growth. The number of registered commercial drones has grown by more than 2.5X every year – and the FAA anticipates 1 million registered commercial drones by 2021.
“Every year, the technology is getting deeper into industries – and it’s getting very predictable,” says Winn. “What’s exciting is that drone fleets are scaling up.” Winn explains that the company has tracked the largest fleet on the platform each year. In 2015 it was 2 drones: in 2019, the largest company on the platform has over 500 drones. “We’re very confident that we’ll see the first commercial customer with over 1,000 drones next year… that’s bigger than American Airlines,” says Winn.
The Future of the Platform
“As we move into the area of managing 1,000 drones, we realize that they need a full solution,” says Winn. The company is developing for that: a full flight solution, a full processing solution, and a full analytics solution. The platform is growing to accomodate more integrations, more functionality, more accessibility, and more of the needs of large enterprise customers.
The company is making big investments in these areas. DroneDeploy is the only mapping company that is ISO certified for security. “We know we need to be good stewards of your data,” Winn says.
“Drone data is penetrating more deeply – across every single business unit…We want to enable that. We’re investing to make our data more accessible to more employees.”
At the same time as they add more functionality, DroneDeploy is working to simplify the process. “We want to make drones productive and accessible to everyone. We’ve been tracking how many steps it takes to produce a map – we’ve come a long way. We’re down to four steps.”
“In the future, we know that we need to get to complete automation… we’re really excited to work towards that future,” says Winn.
The Complete Drone Cloud for Enterprise
The major announcement of the morning was made by Nick Pilkington, DroneDeploy’s CTO: a major new feature-rich release that will be out in about a week. With improved inspection workflows, radiometric thermal imagery, scaling urveying capabilities to accomodate larger surveys at a lower cost and many more features (we’ll report on the release in a separate article) it’s clear that DroneDeoploy continues to focus on – and invest in – development.
In addition to the new release, DroneDeploy announced new major partnerships: with drone manufacturers DJI and Skydio, and with Airbus, for a comprehensive low altitude authorization and notification capabilty LAANC solution. They upped their support offerings and now provide a robust training and certification environment also, to help enterprise customers expand.
Drones for Good
The company has always been a generous contributor to the drones for good movement, providing software and expertise for emergency response and recovery efforts. Now, the compnay has developed DroneDeploy.org as their charitable entity, and have joined the 1% movement – donating 1% of their time and money to non-profit efforts. It’s a great example of how the drone industry is touching all aspects of people’s lives – in a good way.
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.
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