Articles posted by Douglas Kemp

This post first appeared on Forbes.com as Drones Pose A Unique Big Data Challenge For Business Users

The public might consider them nuisances, but in the commercial market, drones are valuable data collection devices. Their primary task is to capture, store, and transmit data. So as IT departments consider integrating more drone data into existing enterprise business processes, they face new data governance requirements. As drone technology matures, it is important to know what it means for you as the steward of your firm’s information technology and software.

Drones present both a big data and an IoT challenge

Up to now, the focus of commercial drone use has been on accurate data collection and visualization—not IT process integration. To be fair, applications have been developed to support verticals like agriculture, construction, energy, mining, and telecom with cloud-based services, but these applications mostly produce and serve up maps, e.g., location maps for managing and servicing company infrastructure and other assets.

Just as with big data, the challenges of drone data include analysis, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and information privacy. We are already beginning to see drones efficiently replace static IoT sensors with one device that is in motion and can capture multiple types of data (so not just pictures and video, but also emission gases, radio signals, geodetic data, etc.).

Is drone data that unique?

Like all IoT devices that are in motion, drones bring a lot of value and at the same time have a lot of challenges. For the most part, drone data is geospatial (or geographic data), imagery, videos, binaries, etc., so falls into the category of non-standard IoT data. However, if you work in IT, you’ll want to understand that this data has some unique requirements. F For example, it requires image recognition analysis and considerable transformation and data parsing to become useful.

A lot—if not most—of the data collected from drones can be used by geographic information systems (GIS).  GIS are mostly used for mapping and analyzing, and they integrate common database operations—such as query and statistical analysis—with visualization and geographic analysis. So, think mapping tools like esri’s ArcGIS.

Data governance implications

When dealing with drone data you may need to expand your current data governance policies because of new risks associated with aerial data itself (like privacy concerns) and the location and operations of the drone (because a drone is legally an aircraft and operates under certain regulations). For example, you may need to revisit policies regarding:

  • Source aviation system, its access, and APIs
  • Security and reliability along the “chain of custody” (drone service provider, to the cloud data service, to your front door)
  • Privacy and risk mitigation (legal issues)
  • Traditional Master Data Management (MDM) to straighten out the differences in reference data like location, asset type, customer name, etc.
  • Archive of source data for later re-processing (do you trust the custodian?)
  • Access control (who gets to see what and when?)

Learning a new lexicon

As you start integrating drone data, you should familiarize yourself with the most common types of processed “processed” data from drones—not the raw data, but the data produced by imaging software and the ones you’ll most likely come across if you’re in IT. Here are five examples:

An orthomosaic is an aerial photograph geometrically corrected (“orthorectified”) such that the scale is uniform: the photo has the same lack of distortion as a map. Typically, an orthomosaic is a composite of individual photos that have been stitched together to make a larger one. What you need to know is that the individual photos that make up orthomosaics each have their own georeference. The processed data (the composite) is what your end users want to use, but they may also want to know the location of the source data if it needs to be referenced later. Think about this in data governance terms. You may need to revisit your data retention rules if the source images are needed for evaluating changes over time.

Thermography (sometimes referred to as thermal imaging) uses thermal video cameras to detect radiation in the long-infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Building construction and maintenance technicians can see thermal signatures that indicate heat leaks in faulty thermal insulation and can use the results to improve the effectiveness of their work. Thermal mapping is also “a thing” with vendors like DroneDeploy, which offers live streaming views, and can either be an image or a map.

Photogrammetry is a technique which uses photography to extract measurements of the environment. This is achieved through overlapping imagery, where the same feature can be seen from two perspectives. With photogrammetry, it is possible to calculate distance and volume measurements. Departments use these outputs to create “point clouds” or 3D images used to do things like render a building or measure the volume of a stockpile.

LiDAR stands for “Light Detection and Ranging.” It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system—generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of objects and their surface characteristics. The accuracy of LiDAR images is stunning (we’re talking millimeters), which is why surveyors and construction engineers favor this technology. What you need to know is that LiDAR files are big. Datasets for a simple project area can be 1-2 TB.

Video is the most common and at the same time the most complex type of drone data. It’s complex because video is almost always stored in compressed form to reduce the file size for storage. A video file normally consists of a container format holding video data in a coding format alongside audio data in an audio coding format. Those are known as CODECs. The container format can also contain synchronization information and metadata such as GPS location and directional data, which can be encoded in each frame. 10 minutes of video at 30 frames per second = 18,000 frames. It’s complex because, when analyzing video data, you have to sort through all 18,000 pieces of frame data.

So here’s the big data problem—it’s the analytics. Most of what you want to know from images and video files (What can I see? What is happening? What is the value?) cannot be extrapolated by the traditional enterprise big data vendors. While automation can exploit this data and increase analysis efficiency, image and video analysis is more often done by teams of specialists. For this, you may want to outsource to an AI vendor that specializes in imaging or use an online drone data service.

Image credit: A SZ DJI Technology Co. drone is displayed during keynote presentations on artificial intelligence at the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, May 7, 2018. Photographer: Grant Hindsley/Bloomberg photocredit: © 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

Press release: Natural Power acquires Ascent Technologies

Leading renewable energy consultancy and service provider, Natural Power, has acquired the Texas-based firm Ascent Technologies – a developer of software for commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations.

The specialist software, which has been developed by Ascent Technologies during the course of the past two years, will enable Natural Power to automate drone flights, thus increasing speed, consistency and quality of the data gathered during wind turbine blade inspections.

Watch Natural Power’s drone video here

https://vimeo.com/315845975

natural_power_DroneNatural Power Drone

The automation enabled by this new software means that the drone system calculates and manages the optimal flight along the surfaces of the blades without pilot intervention, as well as constantly monitoring, adjusting and optimising camera angles, exposure, focal distance and timing of the image acquisition. This ensures excellent data quality capture during the inspection process, whilst also enabling a much quicker inspection process that reduces the turbine’s downtime and associated loss of revenue. The cost to undertake the inspections are lowered and the images obtained during the process are of consistently high quality.

Craig Gordon, Global Head of Inspections at Natural Power, said: “Our blade inspections business continues to gather pace and we have invested in a number of drones that will complement our existing blade inspection services. The acquisition of Ascent will enable us to deliver a step change in the wider inspections service that we offer to clients, and coupled with our expert analysis, ensures we deliver a consistently high quality service.”

Stephen Trotter, Managing Director at Natural Power commented: “We continue to invest in key technologies and skills to deliver improved quality and value to our customers. The acquisition of Ascent accelerates this for our inspections business which plays a key role both as a standalone service and as a complement to our analytics, due diligence, operational and asset management services.”

Natural Power is recognised across the renewables sector for its proven track record across the full scope of inspection services, and has worked across various turbine types including, but not limited to, Siemens, Vestas, Senvion, GE, Enercon and Nordex. This has included work in Europe and The Americas. The team uniquely understands the need to achieve best quality data, combined with efficiency in order to maximise the uptime of turbine fleets whilst verifying their condition and integrity. Find out more here https://www.naturalpower.com/our-services/inspections/.

About Natural Power

Natural Power is a leading independent renewable energy consultancy and service provider that employs 360 staff globally. The company offers proactive and integrated consultancy, construction and operational management and due diligence services, backed by an innovative product range, across the onshore wind, offshore wind, solar pv and energy storage and renewable heat sectors as well as other emerging renewable energy technologies.

https://www.naturalpower.com
https://twitter.com/Natural_Power
https://www.linkedin.com/company/natural-power

Contact details:

Jane Maher, PR and Media
Natural Power
T: 07887 995 589
E: janem@naturalpower.com

Stay tuned on the Personal Drones Blog for the latest quadcopter and multirotor news!

We just announced the release of our latest research on commercial drone operations. The Economics of Using Drones for BVLOS Inspections is a white paper sponsored by PrecisionHawk, the leading provider of drone technology for the enterprise, which provides a foundation for businesses to evaluate when it’s best to use traditional ground and manned aviation, line of sight drones, or BVLOS (for “beyond visual line of sight”) drone inspection approaches. It’s designed as a comprehensive primer of drone inspections in specific industries.

The paper answers questions like:

  • What’s the best way to enable an effective drone strategy?
  • What are the economic benefits of operating drones?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks of using drones for BVLOS operations?
  • How does that compare with traditional inspection methods?

Here is an excerpt:

As the commercial drone industry continues to evolve, widespread BVLOS drone inspection has the potential to significantly change business models for oil and gas, utilities, insurance, and other industries. Representatives we spoke with in those industries point to four main drivers motivating them to explore BVLOS operations:

  • Safety, as in preventing fatal helicopter crashes or accidents from having to manually climb towers to take readings;
  • Costs, or reducing dependence on a $1,500-per-rotor-hour helicopter and personnel and even cutting the time and expense of the multiple flights needed in flying drones within visual line of sight (VLOS);
  • Data inconsistency and lack of quality, since manual data collection sometimes involves photos taken from a helicopter traveling at speed and at different heights for each flight—which leads to inconsistency—or hand-written notes taken while visually inspecting with binoculars—which leads to imprecise or poor quality data;
  • Time to value, meaning that BVLOS flight can cover a wide area and collect high-quality data much more quickly than traditional means, so, for example, insurance claims of total loss can be indemnified faster.

The 21-page report also provides a guide for when—and how—to deploy drones to inspect assets, use cases for how drone missions compare with traditional methods, and insight from PrecisionHawk’s customers about how they’re refining their inspection strategy—and their results.

You can register to get the free report here: http://bit.ly/2Rn8z6y

Image credit: PrecisionHawk

By Paul Archer, Dronesgator.com

A new recent release from DJI makes its way in 2019 with what seems to be a very unique approach to personal consumer cameras.
DJI has quite some history when it comes to gimbal stabilized cameras, both for their drones and for their Osmo line and this makes them quite the expert in the domain.

Osmo PocketOsmo Pocket

I know that at a first glance this device didn’t seem like it had much potential. However, the moment I took it into my own hands I’ve been quite amazed by what it can do.

It’s called the Osmo pocket and I’m completely amazed by how far technology has moved in the recent years. Having such a small yet capable device is something that no one would have dreamt of just a year ago.

Is it a vlogging camera or an action cam?

It has been released some time after the latest gopro hero 7 and people, including me, have compared the two on equal footing because of their bragging about stabilization.

However, the Osmo is more than an action cam, it definitely isn’t as sturdy as the latest GoPro hero, but It holds its own with some very good materials and a very good build.

GoPro vs Osmo Pocket

However, the osmo does have the considerable advantage of permanent 3 axis gimbal stabilization, which means it isn’t limited with electronic stabilization that can fail in poor lighting conditions.

Why is the Osmo pocket a great contender for being one of the top vlogging cameras in the future?

  • Super portable (no need to carry a big camera around you all the time)
  • Incredibly well stabilized video
  • Records in 4k 60p and even slow motion up to 120fps
  • Has the option to easily change the camera orientation towards you or in front by the press of a button
  • Has automatic tracking options
  • Good close up focus
  • More professional, cinematic look thanks to the shorter field of view compared to the fisheye of a goopro for example.

How does it face off against a gopro?

They’re not exactly competing in the same category as I mentioned before, but the new osmo pocket does actually take away some of the market from any action camera.

For more casual recordings, vlogging and whatever scenario that requires a tiny stabilized camera, besides extreme sports.

GoPro Hero7 vs Panasonic G7 vs Osmo PocketGoPro Hero7 vs Panasonic G7 vs Osmo Pocket

Bellow there’s my video comparison to the GoPro Hero 7 black where I also tested the stability on rough terrain, different resolutions side by side, slow motion and more!

[embedded content]

What are some specs and is the price worth it?

When it comes to the price, the DJI Osmo pocket is just under the price of the latest Gopro. Now, you decide if it’s justified for your own needs to spend $350 on a multifunctional camera like this.

However, I could argue that if this manages to replace an expensive DSLR camera for video that you used to barely carry around and shoot shaky videos with… it’s totally worth it.

And the quality is up there, with a nice field of view and blurred background when in selfie mode.

Here are some of the more important specs I felt like people would need to know:

  • 12mp camera
  • 1/2.3-inch sensor
  • 80 degree FOV
  • 100Mbits
  • F/2.0 apperture
  • 4k 60fps
  • 1080p 120p
  • Supports micro sd card of up to 256gb
  • Comes with multiple accessories

How about the accessories?

Well, DJI is already selling quite a lot of those on their site and they seem to be quite useful, even though they have a long way to catch GOPro from behind.

The overall package is super tiny, but if you do indeed decide to attach the phone, maybe because you find the screen too small, it’s going to be less easy to hold in only one hand.

So if you were looking for a new camera and a gimbal for it, the new Osmo pocket might make your life better with a more complete, smaller and quite capable package for the price of an action camera.

Stay tuned on the Personal Drones Blog for the latest quadcopter and multirotor news!

This post first appeared in Forbes

In many ways, 2019 will be another big year for the commercial drone industry. Last year saw a wider rollout of the FAA’s LAANC program (the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability that provides access to controlled airspace near airports), the launch of the UAS Integration Pilot Program from the FAA, and some significant developments for new regulatory frameworks for drones in Europe and in India. This year, expect more of the same—but with a few twists.

Trend 1 – Expanded business use

Adoption of aerial drones and drone technology will not be as widespread as some might expect. Instead, it will grow in select industries like agriculture, construction, insurance, mining and aggregates, public safety and first responders, oil & gas, survey engineering, telecommunications and utilities.

Last year, companies began to move beyond the provisional use of drones—where they were outsourcing to determine a drone program’s feasibility—to standing up or expanding internal teams to manage workflows and data. This year, expect to see reports about companies expanding their teams and adding use cases that take advantage of the waivers allowing limited beyond visual line of sight operations.

Trend 2 – Slower, more steady growth

The number of certified remote pilots is the benchmark for commercial drone industry growth. That’s because, almost uniformly around the world, regulations demand each drone operation have one pilot. Last year, the number of FAA-certified remote pilots grew about 50% over the previous year, to approximately 115,000. That increase was mostly made up of pilots who work for companies, enterprises or public agencies with internal drone programs as opposed to pilots who operate for drone-based service providers. It’s clear that commercial industries are now driving growth rather than individual interest as in years past.

One thing to keep in mind when looking at FAA numbers is that the month-over-month growth rate is beginning to slow. That may worsen given the current partial U.S. Government shutdown, which will delay the grant of new certificates. It may also slow further because some drone-based service providers who are not making money (most aren’t) will choose not to re-certify as a remote pilot.

Trend 3 – Further vendor consolidation

Much of the industry’s growth so far has come from the early hype about how drones were going to “transform” industries as well as huge forecasts that fueled investment. Over the years, we’ve seen those dreams turn to smoke as vendors like 3D Robotics and GoPro fell out of the sky. Last year was no exception. The $118M collapse of Airware and the release of Parrot’s disappointing financial results give us a glimpse into what will come.

Still, there is good news, and you can expect more moves like PrecisionHawk’s acquisitions as vendors seek leadership positions in key industries and secure new revenue streams.

Trend 4 – Public distrust and civil liability

Despite the benefits of commercial drone use, the general public still has concerns about drones with regards to safety, security, privacy and public nuisance. After the Gatwick debacle, expect more headlines in 2019 of unauthorized drone sightings and the coming drone apocalypse. In many ways these stories hurt legitimate commercial operators who often need to gain permission from reluctant land owners so they can perform inspections and survey maps for infrastructure unreachable by other means.

Here in the U.S., there is another tea kettle about to boil over. A little-known but highly influential group known as the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) will continue to work on a proposed “Tort Law Relating to Drones Act,” which concerns drones and privacy. If their proposal is adopted by states, we could see an arbitrary line drawn 200 feet in the sky that would establish a new aerial trespass zone giving property owners the right to establish no-fly zones. Right now, their draft goes much further than any existing state or federal law and, if enacted, would create a complicated patchwork of differing state laws that inhibit commercial operations. Until then, expect to see more local and state laws like this one in Pennsylvania aiming to protect people’s privacy from drones.

Trend 5 – More regulation – maybe

Some predict 2019 will be the year the FAA finally implements a requirement for remote identification for all drones, recreational and commercial, flying in the U.S. It’s expected this will be combined with a new rule for flights over people for small drones. But there is a big difference between the FAA proposing a rule (called the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM) and that rule becoming law. The difference can be anywhere from six to nine months. So it’s likely we’ll see a proposed rule, but implementation will be like Waiting for Godot.

To be clear, Drone ID is not a slam dunk, and the specifics of the ID signature are still being debated within the FAA. Even so, Drone ID needs to exist for Unmanned Traffic Management (aka UTM) to become a reality. UTM should help enable some of the most talked-about use cases for drones, from package delivery to aerial taxi services, but don’t expect this first iteration of remote ID to live up to the headlines or vendor expectations of a global autonomous drone network – as that would ignore the arduous political processes in each country or region to make UTM even possible.

Trend 6 – DJI’s continued dominance

SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. (a.k.a. DJI), a Chinese company, continues to dominate the market and has made gains this year in every product category, from drone aircraft at all price ranges, to add-on payloads, to software. Recent survey data shows DJI is still the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 74% global market share. Much of DJI’s dominance can be attributed to its aggressive product development, technological advancements and partner development in the enterprise channel. Last year, the company released two new series of enterprise products (Phantom 4 RTK and Mavic 2 Enterprise) that target industrial users. It’s safe to predict their leadership will continue given their strategic investment with Hasselblad, their recent investment in an R&D facility in Palo Alto, California, and their partners in the enterprise space such as Microsoft.

Trend 7 – Sensors, software, and AI advancements

Along with the new imaging sensor integration announcements in 2019 (such as smaller, more lightweight LiDAR), expect to see imaging software advancements as companies seek to combine RGB, thermal imaging, orthomosaic, and data from IoT sensors. More aerial imaging and mapping software firms will likely announce artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Right now, most of this is cloud-based machine learning (a.k.a. deep learning and predictive analytics), where datasets are trained by specialized teams. Already, there are some drone-based AI solutions for image recognition/machine vision, but it’s still early in the technology development cycle and AI is near peak hype.

Some big news for 2019 could be workflow integration of drone data and workflow into predictive maintenance and service solutions, as well as enterprise asset management systems such as those from IBM, INFOR, Oracle and SAP. Capabilities could include documentation, tracking and GIS data integration. That may bring a yawn to some, but when you can connect the dots and show the effect of drone data on the balance sheet, CFOs and CEOs will take notice and drive further enterprise adoption

Image credit: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

This was a big year for the commercial drone industry as a whole. It saw a significant increase in the business adoption, the expansion of the FAA’s LAANC program (the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability that provides access to controlled airspace near airports), the launch of the UAS Integration Pilot Program from the FAA (aka IPP), new products like the Phantom 4 RTK from DJI, and some significant developments for new regulatory frameworks for drones in Europe and in India.

In this post, I’ll illustrate some of the market trends over the past year using data from our third annual drone industry benchmark report and describe what I think shaped the drone industry.

Listen to this companion Drone Radio Show podcast here for the complete assessment.

If I was to distill the key forces of 2018 on the drone market into three things, I would say they are:

  1. Business adoption
  2. Vendor contraction and expansion
  3. The DJI effect

Force 1 – Business adoption

Adoption of aerial drones and drone technology 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—where they were outsourcing to determine a drone program’s feasibility–to standing up or expanding internal teams to manage workflows and data.

You can see this trend, particularly in the U.S. when you realize the growth in the number of certified Part 107 remote pilots. The U.S. began the year with about 74K certified remote pilots, and as of the end of November, we had about 112.5K. So we’ve added about 38,500 pilots this year. That’s a 50% increase over last year.

The thing about this increase is that it’s mostly pilots who work for companies, enterprises, or public agencies with internal drone programs.  We saw this trend in the data from our annual benchmark survey conducted over the summer.

Force 2 – Vendor contraction and expansion

There were some winners and losers this year in the race to gain more customers and satisfy investors.

Probably the biggest contraction story was the $118M collapse of Airware. Fortunately, Delair acquired Airware’s software solution, which ensures the continuity of service for existing customers and dealers. The agreement also included keeping the team from construction and mining specialist Redbird, which Airware initially bought in 2016.

The other contraction was from Parrot. Earlier in the year, Parrot released its ANAFI work drone for the commercial drone market. But then just last month, Parrot’s CEO announced disappointing financial results because of what he called “a significant consumer drone market contraction.” Suffice it to say they are running on thin cash flow, and it will be interesting to see if there will be a right-sizing of Parrot and its affiliates like senseFly and Pix4D in 2019.

Another big move this year was PrecisionHawk’s acquisitions of both HAZON and InspecTools. These businesses specialize in inspection services and technology for the energy sector. They bring PrecisionHawk the domain expertise that will enable tighter integration between collecting and analyzing drone data—something customers want. We think these acquisitions position PrecisionHawk as a leading service provider for companies wanting to perform asset inspections—specifically those companies in the oil & gas, insurance, and utility industries that need beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations. If you recall, PrecisionHawk was part of the FAA’s Pathfinder Program, so they have extensive experience in BVLOS ops.

Force 3—The DJI effect

You can’t talk about the drone industry without mentioning market leader DJI. The company continues to dominate the market and has made gains this year in every category, from drone aircraft at all price ranges, to add-on payloads, to software. Our survey data shows DJI is still the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 74% global market share in sales across all price points.

DJI’s current global market share is two percentage points higher than it was last year (72%), and is a significant change from 2016, which showed them with 50% market share.

On that note, many industry and UAS news pundits speculated that security concerns about DJI small drone aircraft would be the death knell for DJI (a China-based company), but clearly these fears did not affect their sales. To stem concerns about DJI’s data security practices, the company hired a forensic investigation company, Kivu Consulting, Inc., to independently review DJI’s UAV data transmission and storage practices. Kivu’s analysis of the drones and the flight control system (drone, hardware controller, GO 4 mobile app) concluded that users have control over the types of data DJI drones collect, store, and transmit.

As I’ve have noted in our report, much of DJI’s dominance can be attributed to its aggressive product development, technological advancements, and partner development in the enterprise channel. DJI’s leadership role existed as early as 2015, when we looked at FAA data on commercial drone registrations. The company continues to release new product after new product, and it leads other manufacturers with technology and enterprise ecosystem partnerships.

We predicted last year that this would continue well into the future, given their current lead, their strategic partnership investment with Hasselblad, their recent investment in an R&D facility in Palo Alto, California, and the continuation of their AirWorks Conference enterprise partner ecosystem event.

That’s it for now. Look for a follow-up piece on our specific predictions for 2019, which will include investments, technology improvements, ecosystem partnerships, and software innovations.

Listen to the companion podcast here: http://bit.ly/2EynyIY

If you have questions about what’s in the report I mention or would like to comment, write me at colin@droneanalyst.com.

Image credit: Shutterstock

By Victoria Greene – @vickyecommerce

At the beginning of December, it will have been 5 years since Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos announced plans for Amazon Prime Air. Initially mocked in popular culture, everyone soon realized that it’s precisely the sort of thing Amazon could and would do, and settled back to see where the chips would fall.

Today, the dream has yet to come to fruition — and other companies have followed suit in betting big on drone delivery hardware and systems — yet the smart money remains on Amazon being the big beneficiary of this automated revolution, especially since it has put so much time and money into getting it right.

amazon prime air droneCredits: Amazon Prime Air

However, by the time Amazon’s Prime Air drone fleet goes live (whether in 2019 or much later), it will need to have overcome some major hurdles that currently face all drone delivery systems. What hurdles are those? Let’s go through them.

Legally using airspace

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is still in the early stages of figuring out how it’s going to handle approval for drone fleets, and thus far its regulations have focussed on manned personal drones. To this point its limitations have been based on maintaining the privacy of citizens and protecting airspace required for other things (such as planes).

Add Prime Air to the mix and you get a tremendously complex situation. Who will be monitoring the drones, and how? How will Amazon avoid drones getting in the way of planes, particularly in busy urban areas? Presumably there will need to be an overarching cross-system network to keep everything neatly synched, but that will increase the complexity.

And in the event of something going wrong, who will ultimately hold responsibility? How will anyone know for sure? If a Prime Air drone crashes into a drone from a rival shipping company (and self-destructs, apparently), each company might claim the fault must have been with the other. It’s certainly understandable that authorities would want to take a lot of time to figure out how everything is going to work before opening the floodgates.

Public distaste for automated transport

On the topic of responsibility, there remains a lot of antipathy towards automated transport systems and smart technology in general. For better or worse, people like to feel that cars, buses, bikes, planes, trains, and, yes, drones are manually controlled. When something goes wrong, there’s someone to blame — someone to hate (and to sue if needed).

When you take the manual control away — or move it back several levels to a position of limited oversight — you attract pushback. Not only do people not want to entrust shadowy automated systems with important tasks (and even their fates), but they also don’t like the consequences in the world of employment.

Just think about what will happen if Prime Air becomes a roaring success and the drone delivery system becomes an ecommerce staple. Heavy things will still need to be shipped by road, naturally, but that will be cold comfort to the many delivery drivers likely to be pushed elsewhere to work for smaller and cheaper companies that can’t afford or justify drones.

The world of technology may have greatly expanded the business opportunities for entrepreneurial types (with a laptop and an internet connection you can take courses, start a store and sell your small business for a tidy profit), but not everyone wants to learn tech. They want to preserve their careers, and drones will prevent them from doing so. The antipathy will eventually fade, but there will be many bitter pills to swallow first.

Keeping communications secure

Amazon Prime Air will invariably have manual oversight (if only to keep investors happy and placate the public), but secure communication will be essential regardless. The more drones are in the air at any time, the more carefully they will need to be arranged to avoid clashes. But the networking demands go past that.

When you establish a high-profile network of any kind, you inevitably attract attempts to hack it: to shut it down, draw data from it, or alter its protocols somehow. Each drone will need to be able to send and receive data to and from the main Amazon system, so people will no doubt attempt to seize drones and analyze them to find a way to break into it.

Could people find ways to locate drones holding expensive items and reroute them? It’s plausible. Very unlikely, I’d say, since I don’t think Amazon would go live without being very confident in its ability to keep its software secure, but this is certainly an obstacle that will need to be completely overcome before getting anywhere.

Establishing enough fulfilment centers

Drone fleets (using today’s technology, at least) will offer incredible flexibility and convenience at the cost of range. When Prime Air was announced, it was noted that a drone delivery must be within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon fulfilment center, which means that Amazon will need a lot more fulfilment centers if it hopes to ever make Prime Air a default delivery option.

And even if it manages to get that many fulfilment centers set up, how will stock levels be handled? The level of complexity will go through the roof. Might we see complex chains of drone deliveries, with one transporting an item to another fulfilment center to be picked up and carried along by another drone? Or will Amazon simply rely on demand prediction models and keep Prime Air as an occasional delivery method?

I don’t anticipate it replacing next-day (or even same-day) standard delivery, but I can certainly see it becoming a very common option. It won’t happen until Amazon gets the infrastructure in place, though, so let’s see how things proceed.

Amazon Prime Air has a lot of promise, but there are many challenges for it to pass before any of that promise can be fulfilled. Thankfully, once it does pass those challenges, there will be a convenient fulfilment system available to make it happen.

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant

Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who can’t wait to jump on the drone delivery bandwagon. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.

Stay tuned on the Personal Drones Blog for the latest quadcopter and multirotor news!

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – Peter Drucker

The $118M Airware failure is a cautionary tale for all potential commercial drone investors—as well as all existing commercial drone market participants. To avoid such failure—whether you are drone aircraft manufacturer, software vendor, service provider, business enterprise, investor, or public agency—you need the most reliable market data possible—not just best guesses.

I still believe the #1 misconception in the drone industry is how fast it will grow, which sectors will grow, and which ones will lag. As early as 2014, we wrote about this problem and warned about using unreliable data to measure the potential market for drones. Back then I said drone market forecasts abound. At that time there were 22 independent companies providing market forecasts, and each of them projected growth for the drone or unmanned aerial system (UAS) sector that was nothing short of phenomenal. Today there are 84, most still projecting remarkable growth.

Our observations:

  • We see a lack of objective information on drone industry market segments.
  • We find there’s an absence of credible market-based research.
  • We see little understanding of the difference between large industry forecasts and actual business user adoption rates.

Example of success

Despite the big disconnect, there are some big success stories in dronelandia—successes that can be attributed in great part to managing with good data.

Take DroneDeploy, for example. They report over 30,000 users that log over 65,000 flights per month. These users have mapped over 250,000 sites and uploaded more than 75 million images in the last 12 months.

By our accounting (results from our 2018 benchmark survey of over 2,500 drone industry participants), DroneDeploy has the #1 market share for agriculture and construction in automated flight / mission planning and data / image / video processing—despite having 16% and 12% overall share in those two software categories, respectively. All vendors continue to push out innovations, but it’s DroneDeploy that’s pushing boundaries more than any vendor. Their app market is the largest set of industry-specific integrated apps available.

How did they get to be so successful?

DroneDeploy operates in one of the most crowded segments of the commercial drone market—software. We track over 130 vendors servicing the two software categories in which they compete. Last year our data showed they lead with more agriculture industry market share than anyone but lagged in construction. This year, however, they targeted construction, and the results show it.

One reason for DroneDeploy’s success is they were able to track their results with data—data that we provided from custom queries tailored to their objectives that were included in their research sponsorship over the past two years.

Bottom line

The quote by Drucker above means that you can’t know whether you are successful unless success is defined and tracked. With a clearly established metric for success, you can quantify progress and adjust your process to produce the desired outcome. Without clear objectives, you’re stuck in a constant state of guessing.

If you have questions about how we can help you make critical investment decisions with confidence, write me at colin@droneanalyst.com.

Image credit: Shutterstock and Skylogic Research

We just released the results of our third annual drone industry benchmark survey and it’s a kicker.

The 2018 Drone Market Sector Report examines worldwide drone sales, service providers, business and public agency users, and software services. This independent research, which is sponsored by DJI, DroneDeploy, DroneInsurance.com, and Trimble, finds a growing demand for businesses to use drone-acquired data in their day-to-day operations as well as other fresh insights on major drone industry segments.

Research

Our online market survey garnered over 2,500 respondents representing over 60 industries worldwide. Our analysis yields 10 key insights that summarize the current state of the industry, plus detailed analysis of drone adoption by businesses and enterprises.

Report

The 107-page report presents the results and analyses from each survey question. It’s organized to match our survey, with four sections that correspond to the four major segments of the drone industry:

  1. Drone aircraft and payloads purchased
  2. Service providers that offer drone-based imaging or sensing services for outside hire or sale
  3. Businesses and public agencies with drone programs
  4. Software apps or online services for drone operations and imaging

The report features more than 60 helpful figures and tables and offering insight and analysis on:

  • Who’s buying what types of drones from which makers at what prices and for what uses.
  • How large the drone-based service providers are, and how they position themselves to their target industries.
  • Who the business users of drone-based projects are, and which industries have traction.
  • How much service providers, business users, and public agencies are using flight management, mission planning, and image processing software for drone-based projects.

Findings

Among the more interesting findings are that commercial drone fleet sizes are smaller than most people think. If you believe the hyperbole, there are hundreds of thousands of drones in the airspace at the same time, but the survey finds that the average commercial user has just two drones that are only flying two projects a month and most of those flights consume less than flight three hours.

There are many other insights in the report, but these three are especially worth highlighting:

  • Professional use of drones is growing. We find that almost three-quarters of all drones weighing over 250 grams are purchased for professional purposes—either governmental or business. This is up from last year.
  • DJI continues to dominate the market and has made gains this year in every category from drone aircraft at all price ranges, to add-on payloads, to software. Survey data shows DJI is still the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 74% global market share in sales across all price points.
  • Most businesses and public agencies are new to drones, have small programs, and perform their own services. The survey finds that nearly three-quarters of businesses or public agencies have only had a drone program in place for two or fewer years.

How to get it

You can download a complete prospectus or purchase the report here: http://droneanalyst.com/research/research-studies/2018-drone-market-sector-report-purchase

Image credit: Skylogic Research

In this August 2018 report, we list the top software applications and data services for processing drone images.

This one-page report includes

  • Vendor name
  • Product name
  • URL link to the website

Read more about drone data services in 5 Tips for Evaluating Online Drone Data Services.

Complete the form to get your free report