Poised for Takeoff: Drones as Emerging Technology

What do wearable technologies, flying cars, the Internet of Things (IoT), robots, and drones all have in common?

You wouldn’t be wrong if you guessed Star Wars; however, they’re also emerging technologies.  

The definition of emerging technologies is a bit fluid, with entire academic articles devoted solely to defining the term.

But in general, emerging technologies are innovations poised to make a major impact in the world, and haven’t yet reached their full potential.

Do drones meet this definition?

I want to share three reasons why I believe UAVs are, without a doubt, still an emerging technology. Let’s take a deeper look at the topic and see if you agree. 

Investment and Research In Drone Tech

For technology to be emerging, research and advancement must be ongoing. Innovation must push the boundaries of what’s possible into new territories.

In the case of UAV technology, large sums of money and resources are indeed flowing steadily, pushing their limits with each passing day.

The top drone manufacturers all commit portions of their budgets to research and development (R&D).

Most commercial drone Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) recognize the importance of investing in new innovations. Without R&D, they’re likely to lose market share, as competitor’s new products offer hardware and software solutions that quickly eclipses previous drone models. 

While most OEMs, especially privately-held companies, limit the details on how much they are spending, you can be sure that investment in UAV technology will remain strong for years to come. 

But, it’s not just private businesses updating their latest models, either. Governments, too, have long recognized the benefits of drones.

While policy may lag behind innovation, there is still enthusiasm for drones’ current and future potential. Several governments, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, continue to provide millions of dollars in grants for drone research.

Drone industry outlook for 2022 - men flying a drone
Related: Here's What's In Store for the Drone Industry in 2022 (click image to learn more)

The Drone Market is Rapidly Expanding

Even amid a global pandemic and economic turmoil, the drone industry continues to see strong growth.

However, this growth hasn’t always been as strong as it is today.

You see for the last two or three decades, the majority of innovation and manufacturing in the UAV space was focused on military applications.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that commercial drones started to come on the scene. And, it wasn’t until the last several years in particular, that companies worldwide really began adopting them regularly.

But, since their humble beginnings, commercial drones have grown exponentially, with predicted global shipments of enterprise drones to reach 2.4 million units by 2023.

So, how does that compare to more familiar tech?

Well, between 2021-2025 drone shipments are expected achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.42%. Compare that to personal computers at 8.17%, or smartphones at just 3.7% during the same period.

This is exactly the sort of growth you’d expect from an emerging technology, one that’s really in the early stages of adoption.

But, what’s really exciting is that those numbers are only representative of commercial drone sales.

The drone service market is also set for tremendous growth.

With a market value of $9.56 billion in 2021, the service market is projected to be worth $134.89 billion by 2028. That’s a staggering CAGR of 45.9%

Few other industries match the potential for the explosive growth of drones & drone services.

The drone industry is a thriving one, with untapped markets and limitless room for growth, a key indicator of an emerging technology.

The Unlimited Potential of Drones as Emerging Technology

Growth and continued investment in a technology are essential if they are to be classified as emerging. Even more important, though, is the technology’s potential impact.

Herein lies the strongest case for drones as emerging technology.

The number of industries benefiting from UAV technology continues to grow.

Agriculture, industrial inspections, conservation, research, mapping, and public safety are just a few that come to mind. Drones have been a disruptive technology in these sectors, cutting costs, increasing efficiencies, and creating safer work environments. 

Yet, drones are really only beginning to shine.

For example, looking at agriculture, drones already help with plant counts, crop spraying, disease monitoring, and soil analysis. Is it too far of a stretch to think drones will soon plant crops? In some forest areas affected by logging and wildfires, it’s already happening.

And, as a growing population places a greater demand on food production, large farms must find ways to maximize efficiency wherever possible.

Drones are also starting to play a more prominent role in infrastructure inspections, completing the task faster, safer, and at less cost than traditional methods. They’re becoming standard tools of law enforcement and public safety, and even deliver organs and help save the lives of people suffering heart attacks

Other applications, like drones providing internet access to remote areas, are only beginning to scratch the surface of their potential. More than a third of the world’s population has never used the internet, generally due to the cost of building the infrastructure needed to provide internet access to rural areas.

But, one company has already proven that drones can help provide access to these regions, with special tethered drones able to remain in the air for 42 days, all while providing internet access.

It seems that nearly every week, a new use for drones is thought up, tested, and put into practice. These continuous new developments show why drones as emerging technology offer unlimited potential for the future.

Final Thoughts on this Emerging Technology

Even with all the uses currently in place, the drone industry is only beginning to scratch the surface of the possibilities.

As public perception and attitudes continue to improve along with available technology, the future is sure to hold some incredible surprises.

With research and innovation still occurring in the space, enormous unrealized potential, and rapid growth, this disruptive technology is here to stay.

The only question now is: what will drones one day do for you?

So, which drone is right for you? And, how do you get started? Do you hire out or bring your drone program in-house?

At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones, from consultation and program implementation to actually doing the work for you.

Ready to learn more? Just complete the form below to schedule a risk-free consultation!

Picture of David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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