Darren Sheffield from drone operators Cloud Vista Studio discusses the opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch a drone business, or for how existing businesses could utilise drones to save costs or increase turnover.
The commercial drone industry is one of the fastest growing technology sectors globally. A recent report from Goldman Sachs estimated the total global spending on drones will be $100 billion over the next five years.
Of that $100 billion spend the majority is military at over $70 billion, followed by the consumer market at $17 billion. However the business and government sector will still account for $13 billion, and this is where the opportunity lies for most drone businesses.
The following table is a breakdown of that sector by industry:
The biggest area is forecasted to be construction at $11 billion, and the work here includes surveying, mapping, inspection and maintenance. Drones in these areas can reduce the time required to undertake the work as well as reducing the need for higher risk operations by humans. A good example of this is a wind turbine inspection where the cost saving can be as much as 50% if carried out by a drone compared to previous methods.
Agriculture is another huge potential area of growth, working hand in hand with the growth of precision agriculture and its approaches. However where as in construction and infrastructure a lot of the opportunities are to change the method of carrying out a current process (e.g. wind turbine inspection) the opportunity and growth within agriculture lies more with farmers to develop and implement new processes. Many are already using drones, but the majority aren’t. However as drones and software improve in both functionality and price, it becomes an increasingly attractive option. Crop analysis is one of the biggest areas, and that normally relies on a specialist camera and mapping technology which allows users to see things like crop health or irrigation issues. Specialist drones are also used for crop spraying, such as the DJI Agras MG-1, and these have been shown to be 40-60 times faster than manual spraying.
Outside of these 2 main areas opportunities also exist in journalism, real estate and film as well as insurance claims, however these are much smaller in comparison to Construction & Agriculture.
As the drone industry matures and more and more pilots take their commercial qualifications we believe that drone businesses must be able to differentiate themselves from the entry level by becoming an expert in a niche other than just photography and film making*. These areas will always have demand, but the business opportunity is potentially smaller as well as being more saturated with operators. By adding expertise and advanced technology, a drone operation can effectively deliver projects for specialist niches. This is opening up a far bigger business opportunity, in a potentially less saturated market. Operating in this way you also leave yourself open to the standard photography and film work.
*Please note there are some incredible photographers and film makers who are making this work as a drone business