Drones: a growing industry, yet still fragmented

By , 21 December 2016 at 13:19
Drones: a growing industry, yet still fragmented

Drones: a growing industry, yet still fragmented

By , 21 December 2016 at 13:19

Drones currently play a starring role and because of this many companies have decided to incorporate these devices into their value chains, aware of the opportunities they offer sectors such as agriculture, safety, logistics, or entertainment. However, it is still a volatile and fragmented market in our country.

The drone market doesn’t stop growing and the number of companies dedicated to operating these unmanned aerial vehicles in Spain totals 1,830 according to information provided by the State Air Security Agency (AESA for its Spanish original). This revolution is transforming companies in all sectors, from agriculture to the movies, and according to the results of the PWC ‘Clarityfromabove’ report published in May 2016, this market can generate a business value of more than 127 billion dollars.

In this sense, the sectors that could be benefited the most with the implementation of this type of technology are those related to infrastructure, agriculture, and transportation. In fact, PWC estimated revenues totalling 45.2 billion dollars in infrastructure if drone applications in agriculture (32,400) and transportation (13,000), are included. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement according to Arturo Zazo, General Director of Geotronics, who emphasized at the Drone Chats event that “the world of drones helps to improve and quantify the productive systems; another of the challenges is the use of ‘low cost’ devices for professional applications”. For his part, Fernando Romero, Managing Partner at Hemav, emphasized that the world of drones consolidates itself based on productivity, and “the value has to be quantifiable for the client”.

Delivery drones

Imagine you’re at home, you order in, and your meal arrives by drone. Google has already implemented this technique at the Virginia Tech University campus in the United States after reaching an agreement with the Mexican fast food chain Chipotle to deliver its order by drones. When a student places an order at a restaurant, a drone installed in a company foodtruck will pick up it up and deliver it to the student’s home. Google’s main objective is for the first fleet of delivery drones to be developed by the end of 2017.

Amazonhas the  same goal. Last July it announced a delivery drone test in the United Kingdom after reaching an agreement with the British government allowing the company to launch a pilot test.

The drone market in companies

Recently, the report prepared by the ToDrone platform, based on surveys taken among more than 400 industry companies and professionals, revealed that 54% of the aforementioned consider that their activities have improved in the last year with the use of drones, and one out of three indicates that this improvement has been significant. Among the conclusions reached in the study, we also find that 93% of all operators are SMEs or autonomous and that 75% of them have been in the market less than three years. Along these lines, 60% of all operators has a regional presence while only 40% offer national level coverage.

This data illustrates the aforementioned fragmentation and volatility of the market due to the fact that it is still immature and growing. However, Bertrand Isnard, President of Parrot Iberia, assured that the drone market in Spain grows at more than 30%, while other European markets show growth rates of 60% and 80%. “This means that there is a market for many actors, but that there will also be a selection. Those who have a good quality to price ratio will remain; the professional drones market is very young and is just taking shape”.

Business areas

As for the business areas that will benefit the most, the cinematographic and audiovisual industries are consolidating as the main operators of this technology at 46%, because drones offer great opportunities in terms of video and photographic production. Next are the infrastructure and mining industries with 17%. In third place are the agricultural and environmental industries with 14.5% because, according to those surveyed, they are the ones that are investing the most.

Health and safety will also play important roles in this business. In fact, the drone firm DJI and the European Emergency Numbers Association (EENA for its Spanish original), known for the 112 emergency number, have reached an agreement for the preparation of a white paper promoting the implementation of drones in emergency situations. The efficacy of drones in these types of situations was demonstrated in pilot training tests. A five-person rescue team needs approximately two hours to find a victim within a one-square kilometre radius. With the use of drones, the operation is reduced to just 20 minutes.

However, this industry still presents a series of challenges that need to be considered: 31% of those surveyed in the study indicate that the main barrier they face is the absence of a political and legal framework, as well as the doubts regarding its future evolution. “As the market matures, becomes professionalized, and the technology becomes less expensive, it’s reasonable to assume that the presence of operators in other areas will dramatically change this distribution,” said Javier Galera, Founder of ToDrone.

Study to become a drone pilot

Being a drone pilot is already a reality. Some university centers are encouraging drones to land inside the classroom. Despite the fact that the first royal decree to regulate the use of drones was approved just a little more than two years ago, if you want to be a professional pilot you must register in one of the educational centers approved by the AESA.

The Universidad de Almería is one of the centers that offers this education through its official Master’s program whose goal is to train future professionals for the civilian drone applications sector (RPAS). The Master’s degree has a price of 4200 Euros and lasts 450 hours. Another of the centers that has entered this market is the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia which recently approved its 1st Master’s degree in Construction, Piloting, and Applications of Systems in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with the purpose of incorporating the students into an increasingly expanding aerospace industry.

Future pilots will have to apply current procedures in civil aviation and control technologies having to do with flight control, propulsion, telemetry, safety, and sensor energy.

In brief, thanks to technological advances the world of drones increases the business opportunities of current civil aeronautical activities, but there are still challenges for the coordination between RPAS entities and flight professionals. The challenge is served.


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