The Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things, will transform many industries. This will be the beginning of a revolution that will change the way we live, work and relate.
Improvement in technologies will drive this change with massive impacts on many businesses. One of these technologies is the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
The earliest use of a UAV occurred in 1849 in the form of unmanned balloons, for warfighting. And the first pilotless aircraft was built in the First World War launched by catapult and flown using radio control. Fast forward to today and the UAV is a sophisticated piece of technology with VTOL capabilities, extended endurance, increased payloads and so much more.
There are currently 50,000 registered drone operators, creating a completely new job category, and right now there are over 1 million registered drones in the US alone. The global drone market is expected to surpass $22B by 2022.
Already many industries are being disrupted by new entrants to the market utilizing emerging technologies. Gaming and sports in both drone racing and drone filming of sporting events. Medical applications for delivery of medicine to remote rural areas in Africa are already in play. And search and rescue operations like the drone that dropped a buoy to a stranded swimmer in Australia.
The sky is the limit when it comes to the use of drone technology. But what will the future look like and which industries will we see grow to new heights in 2018.
We look at the application usage that UAVs will most likely have the biggest impact on disrupting in 2018:
The retail space is already being disrupted by e-commerce players, the transportation of goods from road to air is rapidly increasing. Amazon Primt Air is currently delivering packages directly to a customer using unmanned aerial vehicles.
Autonomous driving vehicle was tested in 2016, with the first Autonomous Air Taxi (AAT) a self-driving taxi tested in Dubai for a 5 minute flight. The drone hovered upward 200 meters. The AAT, which is about two meters high, was supplied by specialist German manufacturer Volocopter, known for its eponymous helicopter drone hybrid with 18 rotors.
Dubai has a target for autonomous transport to account for a quarter of total trips by 2030. With plans to make AAT publicly available to book flights and track routes.
A global report stated that the global autonomous vehicles market revenue is expected to grow at a CAGR of 39.6% during the forecast period 2017-2027 reaching $126.8 bilion by 2027.
Technology can be harnessed to benefit farms for precision Agriculture. Agricultural consumption by human beings is expected to increase by almost 70% by 2050, experts say. This means that Farming will soon have to be done a lot quicker and more efficiently to be able to increase production. Start-up companies have developed drone-planting programmes that will decrease the cost of planting by 85%. The UAV systems shoot seeds and nutrients into soil, which ensures the plants have all the necessary nutrients to grow.
Agricultural drones are able to do things that the average farmer cannot. Between 2015 and 2025, agricultural drones are expected to generate $82 billion worth of economic activity in the U.S. The Bank of America estimates that agriculture will make up nearly 80% of the commercial drone market in years to come.
31% of 1094 farmers polled are considering using drones in 2018 and 33% of these farmers are already using drones on their own or through a third-party company.
Although drone use in agriculture in the US is still growing, Japan has been using drones for rice plantations for years.
Inspection and Maintenance
Workplace injuries cost employers in the US almost $1 billion per week. Businesses are turning to drone mapping to improve safety risks and identify any defects in infrastructure or safety hazards on industrial jobsites.
One of the industries starting to take advantage of commercial drones is the oil and gas industry. Pipelines usually transport oil or gas. Pipeline networks require regular inspections and monitoring. Traditionally, inspections on pipelines rely on staff using vehicles for ground inspections and manned aircrafts, usually helicopters, to look for damages from above. This industry spends almost $50 billion per year just to inspect and monitor the pipelines. These inspections are expensive, time consuming and can be dangerous in certain landscapes. A drone uses approximately 1/100th of fuel compared to a helicopter and also provides more accurate and quantitative information.
The inspection of cell phone towers is another process being taken over by UAVs. The safety of staff and accessibility of different places on the tower is what most concerns companies. Using drones means that they will be able to inspect hard to reach places at any angle, and also means that an actual individual will not have to inspect the tower himself from storeys high.
A company in the US recently used a drone to inspect an ice boom. It usually costs $3500 to send a helicopter to inspect it or $3300 to send a boat, but using an UAV cost them under $300.
The public safety industry is realizing and starting to take advantage of the Drone Age. Drones with video and infrared cameras serve as incredible tools and aid in many ways in public safety situations. UAVs can help conduct search and rescue missions, aid firefighters during missions and assess fire damage afterwards, assess disasters like wildfires and flooding etc.
In San Diego, The Sheriff’s Department is even considering investing in drones to locate missing people. Drones can also help in disaster relief circumstances and distribute supplies to people in need who are in places people can’t get to, for example, if roads have been damaged due to natural disasters.
347 state and local police, fire and emergency units in America have acquired drones. Public safety industry officials estimate that 20,000 UAVs will be purchased per year by public safety agencies by 2025.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
GIS mapping allows us to analyse geographical relationships because GIS programs can show many types of information at once on the same map. This information allows planning to improve life on Earth and also the life of the Earth.
GIS mapping usually involves drilling into the earth, sampling of material and interfering with plumbing structures. Using a drone to map an area is entirely non-invasive. They also transmit many different types of GIS data for a much lower costs than the traditional way. It also takes less time and uses fewer natural resources than manned aircraft.
According to a recent report, the land survey equipment market is projected to reach USD 8.70 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 7.67% from 2017 to 2022. With the UAVs product segment projected to grow at the highest CAGR from 2017 to 2022. This is owing to the increased use of UAVs for potential commercial applications, and their applicability in surveying and 3D mapping.
Drones are not only benefiting to use for observing the Earth’s surface, but also the atmosphere. NASA is already using drones to monitor hurricane activity.
A case study in Morocco specifies ground-breaking capabilities by UAVs in orthophotography and aerial mapping.
Cinematography and Photography
We’re seeing it already, production companies are looking to reduce costs and by using UAVs they can significantly cut out the cost on the use of cranes, jibs and tracks.
Features like 4K video, wireless connectivity, and high megapixel counts are now the norm, but in 2018 and beyond we will see fewer product launches, but with better sensors and faster processors.
According to workers in the industry, the costs of hiring a helicopter and pilot on a movie set is normally over $12000 per day while the expense of having a drone and the equipment involved brought in costs only $2,000 for the day.
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