What’s in store for drones in 2020? A lot! Drone mania has been on the upswing for years now and it’s set to hit a crescendo in the near future. More and more businesses are depending on better and higher grade intel for high-impact decisions. Drones have become a mainstay for analysis and reporting for these companies.
Machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) are bound to have a leg-up with the growth of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) industry. The commercial drone industry is growing at a rate of 25.2% CAGR (2016-2022) culminating at $10.28 billion by 2022 (according to Allied Market Research). A lot of this potential is being recognized and pushed at peak speed.
Here are the top drone trends to watch out for in the year 2020.
Drone-enabled machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT)
Let’s look at drones as what they are, an enabler. They are a means to a goal: business, public safety or reconnaissance. These goals, like surveying and mapping, surveillance, asset inspections, target tracking, counter-insurgency, anti-terror operations, etc.were being undertaken even before the active support of commercial drones. However, they took a lot of time and capital, often putting lives at risk. In the end, the resulting insights gained weren’t completely accurate putting future operations at undue risk.
Drones came in and streamlined the entire process, like clockwork. Now the operator of the drone must simply deploy the drone with the right payload from a remote location. The drone would follow pre-set waypoints to capture live data (visual, thermal, infrared, sonic, spectral, etc.).
The information is gathered and transmitted live, directly through post-processing. The results can be viewed almost instantaneously. The engineer can have detailed 3D Digital Elevation Models. The police officer can have detailed situation analysis of a security threat as it develops. The operations manager can have perfect coal or other stockpile estimations within minutes. Manual surveying, mapping and surveillance work which took multiple weeks can be finished within days.
It’s all connected and processed as one. High degree imaging and reporting, HD visual and thermal images for expert reconnaissance as situations develop, in-time fault detection to save millions in asset management or critical equipment maintenance, etc. are a regular feature with these ML and IoT enabling drones.
Where’s my package? Delivery drones right around the corner
One of the recent ‘future fantasies’ has been quick and safe package deliveries with drones. Imagine for a minute that you are married and you forgot to buy a gift for your spouse on his or her birthday. You could just order it right then and have the drone deliver it within the hour. Neat? It’s possible.
Top delivery service companies are pumping a lot of research and time in channelizing this technology. Recently UPS was granted permission for restricted drone deliveries. There are companies that are delivering medicines in countries like Rwanda. No longer the future any more, but, colloquially, it’s just a matter of time now.
Growing last mile logistics pressures, increasing delivery volumes (especially the under 5 kg bracket), traffic and delays, and the ever-increasing competition among e-commerce players like Amazon, Flipkart, Alibaba, etc. would make the delivery drones a reality in the very near future.
Drones for all! Total user experience-centric drones
Drones have been, in the past, associated with experts and enthusiasts. However, the recent years of development has opened up the market completely. Drones now have autonomous handling with easy vertical take-offs and landings. Any operator, even with minimal technical expertise can set up the drone with location points (waypoints). The drone would launch and follow its designated path, patrolling or coming back to home-base all on its own.
The operator can simply control the camera (or any other) payload with a joystick for a perfect 360-degree and multi-zoom view. ideaForge’s pioneering dual payload drones give the option of easily switching between imaging equipment. This means that the user can operate the drone at night or day, in a range of scenarios and conditions. Drones are now simple and highly effective.
2020 would see them taking centre-stage with far higher adoption. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported 100,000 drone registrations between 2016-2018. More and more people from all walks of life, across industries like agriculture, construction, mining, etc. are coming in for licenses en masse.
NASA Drone UAS Traffic Monitoring
Global air traffic management is a system of constant communication between multinational authorities for a detailed mapping of all known flight paths. This is backed by satellite coverage and linkages. Government authorities like the FAA have restricted coverage over low-altitude airspace occupied by commercial UAVs. They recently partnered with NASA (and other nation’s authorities) to build an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) system for drones.
NASA is in its final year of testing and experimentations for an efficient UTM. 2020 would see the first inklings of a proper air-traffic management system for drones. This would be a milestone in the growth of commercial drones. NASA has suggested that in 2020, there would be over 400,000 commercial drones (just in the USA). That’s something to watch out for sure.
Like the FAA, authorities across many countries are fast-tracking drone regulations so-as-to not miss the bus for this next big thing. UK and India have bought in experts for drafting regulations to properly encourage indigenous tech-development. 2020 would be the defining year for drone regulations.
A drone for a drone! Drone safety taken up a notch
As pointed out earlier, drones are a means to a goal. They are a pure technology or application like the Internet. There would be instances where commercial drones are utilized in less-than-appropriate circumstances. But it’s all about being two-steps ahead of every possible perpetrator.
Industry-leading companies like ideaForge have stood up to be a part of the solution. On the back of recent partnerships with companies like Aaronia, ideaForge is building to a position where illegal drone-use can be identified and tracked immediately. This would set the record straight in the misuse of the technology.
Technology is catching up with morality and the incentive of proper drone-usage is driving companies and countries alike to engage with progressive regulations. Anti-drone technology would tip the balance back to the side of positive development in 2020.
At the heart of it, drones have been here to stay for decades now. In 2020, they would get their official citizenship in multiple countries at once, bringing in a new-age of connectivity and communication. Companies like Uber are eagerly awaiting developments in this space as they align similar tech in automated air-travel for passengers. FedEx and other companies are working to build on all the recent drone-developments to enrol heavy-duty drones for heavy item deliveries.
2020 is sure to be an inflection point in the growth in the commercial drone industry.