The global commercial drone market size was estimated to be USD 552 million in 2014 and is projected to reach USD 2.07 billion by 2022, with a CAGR of 16.9%. Increased usage in law enforcement and agriculture sectors are anticipated to have a favorable impact on the market over the forecast period. The drones are also called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which encompass unpiloted aerial vehicles and remotely piloted. These UAVs have applications in several industrial areas which include homeland security, military, retail and agriculture. Demand is significantly higher for military applications, although commercial applications are gradually catching up.
Retailing and E-commerce industries are trying to use such UAVs in order to deliver products to the customers in a very short span of time. In July 2015, Amazon proposed to allocate a distinct airspace zone to operate these unmanned aerial aircraft for the purpose of delivering goods to customers. However, such initiatives are not approved by the government and regulations are formed for the use of drones once they are launched in the market for the above mentioned purpose. Governments across the globe are using these unmanned aerial vehicles in various applications such as infrastructure, law enforcement, R&D & scientific research, in disaster management activities and environmental studies.
Aviation regulatory bodies such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from the U.S. have barred the use of UAVs considering the limitations in handling the air traffic on such a large scale and the safety will be concern for the citizens. Although the uses of these UAVs are now allowed for commercial purposes, there are still certain segments of business such as logistics and transport where they are still banned. A new set of regulations are formed for the usage of UAVs suggested by the FAA, the UAVs will be permitted to fly during the day if they weigh up to 55 pounds, fly less than 100 mph and stay below 500 feet in the air.
Agriculture sector is anticipated to become a major user over the forecast period of seven years on account of numerous benefits such as increase in yield due to crop monitoring. IT giants such as Google, Inc. and Facebook, Inc. are planning to launch solar-powered UAVs that fly around increasing the reach of internet access to the remotest corner acting as flying internet hotspots or access points. In addition, Amazon is working on an innovative drone called Prime Air that will deliver the products ordered within half an hour after order placement.
Other than its wide range of applications across the retail sector and law enforcement, UAVs are used in high altitude imaging, mapping, forest fire monitoring and wild life patrolling. In September 2014, the federal aviation administration granted regulatory approvals to six television and film production companies such as Aerial HeliVideo Productions, Astraeus and Aerial MOB, to use camera-equipped UAVs on movie sets.
Other applications include data collection and imaging activities such as environmental mapping and monitoring, natural hazards research & monitoring, hyperspectral imaging, atmospheric monitoring, soil moisture imaging, plume dispersion & tracking, and aerosol source determinations. As of 2014, the rotary blade type drones held a major share of the commercial drones industry. It includes multi-rotor and single variants that are used in various applications. Multi-rotor drones may have more than two and upto eight rotors and therefore has simpler rotor system required for flight operation. For aerial photography and surveillance multi-rotor aerial vehicles are used as they have better flight control. In addition, these multi-rotor aerial drones can be used to deliver packages with the appropriate attachments.
Hybrid UAVs can operate on multiple energy sources and can stay in flight for longer duration say years at a stretch. They are fitted with solar absorbing panels mounted on its wings that convert energy into fuel. Nano drones are small UAVs that are easy to carry and very portable. Such small UAVs can be effectively used for aerial and security photography activities. North America is key market owing to increasing applications in various commercial sectors and high production. However, the European commercial drone industry is anticipated to grow considerably over the forecast period owing to the increasing applications in law enforcement, agricultural applications and relaxations in regulations.
Favorable government building retrofits and initiatives are projected as few driving factors for the European UAV industry. Moreover, the UAV demand is projected to increase the demand in Asia-Pacific. Use of drones in agriculture sector is expected to increase in Australia and some Asian countries such as Japan. BAE Systems PLC, AeroVironment Inc., Elbit Systems Ltd., DJI, Draganfly, Israel Aerospace Industries, General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Textron Inc., Parrot SA, and The Boeing Company are the key players in commercial drone market.
Commercial Drone Product Outlook (Revenue, USD Million, 2012 - 2022)
• Fixed wing
• Rotary blade
Commercial Drone Application Outlook (Revenue, USD Million, 2012 - 2022)
• Media & Entertainment
Commercial Drone Regional Outlook (Revenue, USD Million 2012 - 2022)
• North America
• Asia Pacific
• Latin America
Research Support Specialist, USA