• August 16, 2016

The Decade of Drones

How are industries experimenting with drones?

Remote-controlled vehicles have always been cool, and the technology for these aerodynamic toys has been remastered and rebooted into powerful high-flying autonomous machines with uses that transcend fun and recreation. This is the decade of the drone—also referred to as unmanned aircraft systems—and industries and businesses around the world are experimenting with their usefulness.

Some of the areas in which drones are being tested include media/news reports; police services (to help find missing people or capture crime scene images); traffic management and construction; grocery, pizza, and retail deliveries; and farming. Mail delivery services are also ideal for drones. In fact, Posti Group, the Finnish postal service, reported a successful trial using drones for package delivery to a specific area near Helsinki.

Business Cases

The top business uses for drones are listed in a report from The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College as photography/filming and real estate, the latter of which makes sense when you consider a commercial firm is only as good as the assets in which it represents, and beautiful images help make the sale.

In the world of e-commerce, it’s easy to see how retailers can use drones for speedy product delivery. Amazon is developing drones that can deliver packages weighing less than five pounds in about 30 minutes if the drop-off location is less than 10 miles from the fulfillment center. Of course, when it comes to drone deliveries, questions about timeliness and security remain top of mind for consumers. Weather and battery reliability also pose difficulties, and animals can be unkind to inorganic creatures flying within their air space. Then there are the practicalities of package weight and the ability of the drone to deliver the right item at the right doorstep in one piece. But the potential for unmanned deliveries is just as sky-high as the machines themselves.

Space Drones

NASA recently tested drones in order to collect data that could lead to aircraft noise reduction. In addition, NASA aeronautics engineers are also working to improve drone technology for forestry services, predicting weather, and services related to infrastructure.

While the average enterprise may not be using drones today, the potential for drones to impact customer service, product delivery, service checks, research and development, and health and safety are far and wide. The market for commercial and civilian drones is expected to grow by 19 percent by 2020, according to a report from BI Intelligence, demonstrating that while the business case for drones is just beginning, it’s poised to take off like a rocket.

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