The use of non-military drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles – will reach the 1 million mark for the first time this year, with over 300,000 units sold at a total value of between £125 million and £250 million, according to Deloitte. But while media attention has focussed on consumer usage (it blends the appeal of remote-control, high-def photography and kite flying) the bigger opportunity will likely be for businesses.
But forget Amazon landings on your personal droneport. “We don't think this will be for deliveries to our homes – the cost per trip at an average £6 is prohibitively high – but rather for the many tasks that require some form of aerial observation.”
So, what are we talking about here?
Consider those jobs which were previously too expensive for conventional flight solutions. For example, with drones, livestock owners can do aerial searches for lost animals, or herd them. Rescue units can use drones to complement search missions using infra-red cameras. They can be used to distribute medicines as part of disaster relief or other humanitarian campaigns.
However, drones are unlikely to become a mass-market for three primary reasons - risk of drone crash, uncertainty in regulation, and cost, both per drone and per flight.