In recent years, drone sales and popularity have continued to increase not only in America, but around the world. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March of 2020, many industries, from hospitality & tourism to retail shopping, came to a startling halt. But how did the pandemic affect the drone industry? Unlike many other industries, the drone industry has seemingly not been phased. In fact, the demand for drones has only increased since lockdown began. While it will be months or years before many of the long lasting impacts of Covid-19 are uncovered, one thing that is certain is that drones are here to stay.
Commercial Drone Industry Growth
As stated before, the drone industry has experienced incredible growth since the pandemic began, but not in the way you might expect. Global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research, predicts that the drone industry will be worth US$92 billion by 2030, which is substantial growth over the US$9.5 billion in annual revenue for 2020. Pre-pandemic, drone interest peaked around 2016 and had begun to level off. As shown in the graph below, search frequency for the keywords “best drone” and “buy drone” have been slightly decreasing since 2016, indicating that consumer drone interest has been declining.
People searching these terms are likely looking to buy a consumer drone for themselves to be used for photography, racing, or recreational purposes. These sales continued on this trend at the beginning of 2020, but experienced a sharp increase in March 2020, not coincidentally around the same time lockdowns began.
From hobbyists with more time on their hands, to people who lost their jobs starting to freelance, the pandemic provided the opportunity for many people to jump into the drone industry with both feet. But beyond photographers and hobbyists, the drone industry growth during the pandemic can be attributed to greater demand in security and industrial inspection, delivery, agriculture, emergency services, public service responses, and surveillance by both local and national police forces. These areas all needed greater remote capabilities, made possible by drones.
Another aspect of the drone industry that experienced substantial growth in 2020 was drone software and apps. Sales for apps like that provide drone services such as mapping and enterprising increased significantly throughout 2020. For example, DroneDeploy recorded its most flights ever in May 2020, and Dronegenuity had more than doubled its business by the end of the year. This indicates that lockdown provided the opportunity for many freelance pilots and business owners to franchise and expand their drone businesses, and needed software and infrastructure to do so. As the drone industry grows, so will the need for applications to support it.
While many companies were already experimenting with contactless drone deliveries, the pandemic has brought immediate attention to this need. The idea of drone deliveries had been gimmick in the past, but it suddenly became a necessity for safety. Drones have the potential to provide a safe alternative to traditional delivery methods that eliminate any direct human contact between businesses and customers. Companies such as Wing, Amazon and Flytrex have piloted (pun intended) some sort of drone delivery service within recent years.
But the real triumph with the addition of contactless drone deliveries is the ability to safely deliver essential supplies to communities during a time of crisis. There are many remote communities across the US and beyond that have had difficulties gaining access to essential PPE, medications, and supplies throughout the pandemic. Production of essential supplies has increased tremendously, but those supplies aren’t any good if they can’t make it to the people that need them. Several companies have either launched their own drone delivery services or paired up with companies to find creative new ways to utilize drones during this unprecedented time. For example, CVS and UPS have come together to use drones to deliver prescriptions to residents of a retirement community in Florida, many of whom would not have been able to access them due to quarantine. Walgreens and FedEx have also joined forces to deliver supplies to those who are self-isolating. Walmart has implemented remote deliveries of self-testing kits in select communities that allow people to be tested for COVID-19 without coming into contact with another person, in turn limiting potential exposure to the virus greatly.
Drones for Essential Work
As stated previously, the pandemic has forced many companies with experimental drone programs to examine them more seriously as a legitimate tool that has potential to provide a variety of services. Using drones to not only deliver supplies, but also to remotely inspect buildings or structures, survey damage of natural disasters, and for remote surveillance, reduces the number of people that could potentially be exposed to the virus by doing these jobs. For example, a company on the East Coast had planned a month-long project with 15 employees needed to inspect one of its cooling towers. But by implementing the use of drones, the company was able to execute this project in only 5 days with only two crew members! Another example that has become popular in recent years is using drones to survey natural disaster damage. They can assess structural damage to buildings, map large-scale disasters such as earthquakes and floods, and even be used to extinguish wildfires without endangering the lives of firefighters.
And as drone technology continues to develop and they become more and more autonomous, these opportunities only increase, expanding the amount of jobs that no longer need humans to execute. A senior Robotics Analyst at ABI Research puts it this way: “The advancement of edge computing and processing hardware will also be important, as drones can be untethered from remote operation and become truly autonomous.” By using drones to execute these important tasks, we will be able to continue doing essential work even during times of crisis, while limiting risk of exposure to essential employees. Not to mention that they are often the cheaper and more efficient option!
What is the post-pandemic future for drones?
So what happens when the pandemic ends and life returns to normal? While it isn’t possible to know the lasting effects of the pandemic just yet, certain things that were implemented out of necessity are likely to remain long after lockdown ends. The Virus disrupted the way we live and the way we do business and it stands to reason many of these changes will become permanent; for instance many companies that went remote have opted to permanently continue remote work, Dronegenuity included. The past year also saw many burdensome government regulations eliminated in the name of safety. A return to normalcy could bring a long overdue re-evaluation of many of these restraints as the public may struggle to remember why these burdens existed in the first place. While companies first implemented the use of drones for a multitude of services to complete jobs while maintaining social distancing guidelines, they are realizing that they are an efficient, inexpensive option for many tasks, including drone delivery. The “new normal” just might include a lot more drones taking to the skies.
Get Certified to Fly Commercially
The Dronegenuity Part 107 Test Prep Course does a deep dive into all of the topics that are covered on the FAA’s Part 107 Exam. This exam is required for drone users who intend on using their drone commercially. In other words, if you intend on making money with your drone, this course sets you up to take the FAA’s exam and get your certification. We’ll cover topics such as FAA regulations, weather, radio communications, sectional charts (of course), the national airspace system, and more. Enroll now to take your first step towards FAA certification.
We’d love to hear from you if you want to learn more about the benefits of aerial drone photography for the real estate industry. If you’re interested in obtaining your Part 107 Commercial Drone License or other drone training courses, please contact us at Dronegenuity today! We offer professional aerial photography services, performed by FAA licensed drone operators for customers of all sizes. All of the work that we do is completely customized and we make the process simple and convenient.
How Covid-19 Helped the Struggling Drone Industry Take Flight – https://www.fastcompany.com/90559356/dji-drones-utility-inspection-covid-19-pandemic
Drone Industry Powers on in a Post-COVID-19 World to be Worth US$92 billion by 2030 – https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/drone-industry-powers-on-in-a-post-covid-19-world-to-be-worth-us92-billion-by-2030-301143603.html
How Has COVID-19 Impacted the Consumer Drone Market? – https://droneanalyst.com/2020/09/17/covid-19-drives-interest-in-consumer-drones
Walmart Now Piloting Drone Delivery of COVID-19 At-Home Self-Collection Kits – https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2020/09/22/walmart-now-piloting-drone-delivery-of-covid-19-at-home-self-collection-kits