What did we learn in 2018 about where the drone industry is headed?

For that question, we turn to Colin Snow, CEO and Founder of Skylogic Research, LLC (also known as Drone Analyst®).  Skylogic Research is a research, content and advisory services firm providing research-based insights on commercial drone market segments. Its mission is to help companies make critical investment decisions with confidence. Colin is a 25 year technology industry veteran with a background in market research, enterprise software, electronics, digital imaging, and mobility. His experience includes aerial photography as well as making, programming, and piloting remote control aircraft. He holds an MBA from Florida Atlantic University, is a member of all major UAS industry groups including both AUVSI and AMA, and also holds an FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot certification. In this edition of the Drone Radio Show, Colin talks about the forces shaping the drone industry in 2018 and what we might expect in 2019.  There’s no better person from which to gain insights into the drone industry than Colin Snow.

In This Episode

  • Three major forces that shaped the drone industry in 2018 – Business adoption, Vendor contraction and expansion and The DJI effect.
  • Business adoption of drones was not widespread, but it did grow in select industries such as insurance, utilities, construction, and survey engineering.
  • In 2018 we saw companies begin to move beyond the provisional use of drones to standing up or expanding internal teams to manage workflows and data.
  • The U.S. began the year with about 74K certified remote pilots and as of the end of November there were about 112.5K.  That’s a 50% increase over last year.
  • More pilots working for companies, enterprises, or public agencies that have internal drone programs, rather than small mom & pops.
  • Probably the biggest contraction story of 2018 was Airware. A massive $118M failure and serves a cautionary tale about what can happen when you pivot too much.
  • Another big move in 2018 was with PrecisionHawk who acquired both HAZON and InspecTools – companies that specialize in inspection services and technology for the energy sector.
  • Almost 75% of all drones weighing over 250 grams are purchased for professional purposes—either governmental or business. Up from last year.
  • DJI dominates the market (74%) and has made gains this year in every category from drone aircraft at all price ranges, to add-on payloads, to software.
  • What to look for in 2019? More of the same – Incremental growth in key segments of the market as well as more mergers and acquisitions.
  • Beware of the hype. There are still some analysts that paint a very rosy picture of the future. Make sure you stay grounded in the facts.
  • Look for some new FAA rules to be introduced, but remember it takes anywhere from 9-18 months for a rule to go into effect.
  • Remote ID, Autonomy, etc.? There will be progress, but we are still some years away.
  • Only little more than 12% of drone service providers (DSPs) make more than $100,000.  Surveying / Mapping / GIS lead the way.
  • There is a shift to more complex use cases due to growing sophistication of drone payloads (mostly DJI, FLIR, and LiDAR) and post production software to support those use cases.
  • We are going to be under the Part 107 waivers for a long while, which means businesses need to understand the economic efficiencies of BVLOS mapping and inspections vs. VLOS if they want to make the business case.
  • Basic public concerns still exist around Safety, Security, Privacy and Public Nuisance.
  • The big question – What monetary benefit do drones and information gleaned from drones provide to shareholder value?

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