Are you an avid drone enthusiast, always curious regarding the latest trends and developments in the industry? Have you ever wondered what the future has in store for unmanned aerial vehicles as drone technology makes more advances than ever before?
The drone market is fascinating to be sure, steeped in an industry that prides itself on innovative, multi-functional technology. For a detailed look at the drone market of today, drone technology trends, and the future outlook of the industry, keep reading.
Drone Market Overview
Once upon a time, drone technology was misunderstood by the masses, who imagined aerial vehicles constantly swarming about as an invasion of privacy. Not only that, but both commercial and recreational drone pilots had expectations for drone usage above and beyond the realm of reality. This created a host of frustrated users who did not fully understand if what they were demanding from their drones was possible or not.
The good thing is, this conflict has died down considerably, making it much easier to look at the drone market and determine where it is going. One major development in the drone market is significant improvements in software. Key market players have invested in advanced software too.
Drone companies recognized that it was not just the drones that appealed to pilots, but their innate function to harvest data for commercial and recreational purposes. As a result, there has been a substantial rise in strategic partnerships in the market, as bare bones drone hardware does not meet the mark for most users. Drone companies identified this gap and bridged it by working alongside other industry players to create comprehensive drone offerings.
Quite a few mergers and acquisitions have taken place to meet the demands of drone technology and form these strategic partnerships. Companies like Agribotix, PrecisionHawk, and 3DR are not focusing on hardware any longer and instead have moved on to software.
This is partly because DJI has becoming the leader in drone hardware. Not only that, but 3DR openly admitted that their competitor’s pricing options was the primary factor behind their $100 million hardware collapse.
Specialization has been a huge trend among manufacturers in areas like safety and security, delivery systems, and agriculture. As manufacturers carve out their own niche, they are better able to beat the competition with advanced offerings like lighter-than-air, VTOL fixed-wing, and fixed-wing capabilities.
The Autonomous Air Taxi industry has made tremendous strides, particularly as there is substantial monetary backing in this sector. Major manufacturers are vying for the best hardware and top spot. Two key examples of this are Boeing’s acquisition of Aurora Flight and Geely’s acquisition of Terrafugia.
Other companies have altered their game plan from one type of drone to another, such as Ehang’s transition from recreational drones to Autonomous Air Taxis. In both the recreational market, selfie drones and drone racing events are still the main attraction.
Quite a few manufacturers have found it difficult to keep up with user demands. Parrot found it difficult to meet with the changing times, so Bebop became a leader in commercial drone usage. Lily also did not meet the mark, bringing Mota Group to the forefront of the consumer market. Even DreamQii was forced to send out refunds when their PlexiDrone failed users.
Software Changes and Developments
Drone technology has experienced significant software changes and developments as of late. Inspection software has come to the forefront with features like pattern recognition. The strategic partnerships that have been created by leading companies create a cumulative solution to drone user needs rather than just elements of the puzzle.
API’s and other techniques that let drone data integrate into established systems has been a huge stride for the industry and is growing all the time. Aerial Data Providers have brought aerial acquired data to new heights with satellite controlled virtual platforms.
Strategic partnerships to enhance software development approaches have crossed national and international borders. For instance, Airmap and Skyward were the first to offer LAANC accreditation.
Service operations in drone technology have also come a long way. Zipline and Matternet are just a handful of the numerous companies using drones to transport medical supplies throughout Europe and Africa. Drone warehousing has become the latest development on the scene.
Drone entertainment is another service that has reached untold popularity and demand, both for indoor and outdoor enjoyment.
Drone Technology Trends
Drone technology is advancing ever onward towards the future, but there are key trends that bear mentioning for any aerial vehicle enthusiast. Co-piloting functionalities have become the innovative solution for drone operation, making flight time seamless and efficient.
Co-piloting capabilities have put software in the driver’s seat rather than drone users themselves. This makes filming or any other drone use much easier because you do not have to put all your focus on flying the drone.
There are a couple different co-pilot systems in the works that have been reported to take this functionality to the next level, where you do not have to think about flying the drone at all. This allows you more room to focus on any other aspect of drone usage you require.
Drone Camera Improvements
One major drone technology trend is improvements to drone camera software. The goal is to create software with a built-in camera that identifies surrounding obstacles or objects that could impede or damage the drone while in operation.
This would be a step up from current drones that have some sensory capabilities, but only in a very limited capacity. Many drone manufacturers are interesting in making drones more autonomous and independent from users by enhancing this camera functionality.
New Technological Advances
The small Panoptes Ebumper 4 drone that uses sonar to identify outside hazards and obstacles can now circumvent these impediments altogether, all without involving the pilot. Another drone technology update in the works is a drone guiding system using infra-red sensors and receivers. Supposedly, it would let the drone view its environment and avoid any obstacles of its own volition, provided it was not being operated at too high a speed.
One exciting drone technology improvement is current manufacturers’ efforts to change the way pilots can use the drone camera while the aerial vehicle is in flight. If this technology makes it all the way, you will have plenty of other options besides adjusting your camera face or changing gimbal settings.
Companies enhancing their drone technology are working to make every aspect of drone operation more streamlined and efficient for users. They want to improve lighting, lens settings, and filters, along with recording and bitrate, all with a few calibrations on your controller or tablet.
Additional Hardware Components
A common gripe for drone pilots is the massive hardware restrictions placed on them. Things like power issues and insufficient battery life are a few of the biggest ones, but there are plenty others.
The best drone models on the market still feature drone technology that only allows 20 to 25 minutes of flight for every battery. So, whenever you take your drone out, you are probably used to bringing at least one additional charged battery, if not more. If you take videos and images on your drone, the battery life is drained much faster.
Well, drone companies are trying to change things up with various battery solutions. They are also trying to manufacturer a large battery with a longer rate of usage. One of the most recent developments on this front in drone technology was Sunlight Photonic’s announcement they would sell a new, solar powered drone.
The modding sector has helped make improvements with battery and power issues, creating various drone shortcuts for underpowered vehicles that could lengthen the battery by anywhere from 70 to 80 percent.
What does the future look like for drones? With the latest developments in drone technology, hobby drones are racing to the front of the line. There are over 1.1 million hobby drones in the USA alone, while the Federal Aviation Administration expects the number will increase to 2.4 million by the year 2022.
The one major uncertainty is whether pilots will keep being enthused about the hobby. Researchers have projected that the range of interested pilots could be as low as 2 million or as inflated as 3.2 million, but time will tell how accurate those numbers really are.
With commercial drones and advances in drone technology, there are upwards of 80,000 certified remote pilots. By 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration projects that there will be 301,000 commercial pilots in the sky.
With such a jump in numbers, there will be a greater demand for larger, better developed aerial vehicles with fewer inconsistencies and more features like complete co-piloting and advanced camera sensory technology. That said, the Federal Aviation Administration thinks there will be as few as 452,000 and as many as 718,000 registered drones by 2022.
Drone technology is showing us every day that the potential for advancements and astounding features is limitless. With more and more drones taking to the sky, drone companies will have to work hard to continue to meet user demands. However, with drone technology like enhanced battery life, pilot-independent obstacle avoidance, and infrared sensors coming to the forefront, they are more than up to the challenge.