The market of small unmanned aerial systems or drones continues to grow with total worldwide shipments reaching three million by 2025, increasing at 25% CAGR, technology intelligence firm ABI Research predicts.
Maturity of drone hardware and 5G allow more countries to relax their drone regulations and build up their supply chain due to techno-geopolitics disputes, ABI Research says.
“Even though COVID-19 had a significant negative impact on the drone industry and worldwide consumer sales have decreased markedly, shipments for civil and commercial use cases have been growing. Moreover, the end of restrictions in most places, except in China and some Asian countries, has accelerated small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) adoption,” explains ABI Research industrial, collaborative, and commercial robotics analyst David Lobina.
“The demand for drones has never been higher before in various use cases, such as aerial data collection, infrastructure inspection, disaster response, network assurance, and last-mile delivery.”
ABI Research cites the following drone companies. For example, drone delivery company Zipline helps authorities deliver COVID-19 vaccines in Ghana and Nigeria and plans to expand medical supplies delivery services in Japan.
Employees of large industrial companies are using drones with the help of service providers, such as DroneBase, DroneDeploy, and PrecisionHawk to scan and monitor valuable assets, such as farms and plantations, solar panels, wind turbines, base stations, and commercial towers.
“In recent years, the emergence of drone service providers aims to provide dedicated solutions for specific applications, helping end-users to learn, adopt, and deploy drones in their daily workflow seamlessly,” says Lobina.
5G is another critical factor that will spur the growth of drone adoption.
Key 5G chipset vendor Qualcomm launched the Flight RB5 platform in August 2021, breaking barriers to developing 5G-connected drones.
While most recent 5G applications focus on ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC), 5G is expected to provide edge artificial intelligence (AI), integration with satellite communication, inter-robot mesh or swarm communications, and most importantly, support for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
In January 2022, the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR) and the New York UAS Test Site received authority from the Federal Aviation Administration https://www.faa.gov/ (FAA) to test and fly drones BVLOS across 35 miles of airspace within the New York Drone Corridor.
US 5G telecommunication service provider robotics arm Verizon Robotics has developed a software that integrates drones into the US National Airspace System, helping drones can operate safely together.
However, the drone industry is not immune from geopolitics, particularly the China-US trade disputes.
While consumer drone company DJI will continue to dominate the sUAS market and remain the largest manufacturer, advanced economies are increasingly concerned with the dominance of Chinese vendors in their technology supply chains.
As a result, they are eager to develop domestic chains to reduce their reliance on Chinese vendors.
“Japan is actively building its drone supply chain, with large vendors such as Sony leading the charge. In addition, India looks to become a global drone hub by 2030. It is expected that more hardware vendors will emerge in the next few years with strong government backing,” Lobina concludes.
This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 29 June 2022.