Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Drones Are Coming!

Amazon’s “Octocopter” promises to deliver your latest purchase in as little as 30 min. 
Drone aerial devices are poised to become a huge global business and are going to have a significant impact across a wide variety of industries.

Looking beyond military usage, commercial drones are taking off for businesses. BI Intelligence, a research service from Business Insider, estimates that 12% of an estimated $98 billion in cumulative global spending on aerial drones over the next decade will be for commercial purposes. The San Jose Mercury-News reported that in 2013, there were 15 venture investment deals in drones worth about $79 million.

“This technology is an extra tool to help an industry be more effective,” said Gretchen West, executive vice president for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). “With precision agriculture, for example, it can take pictures of fields so farmers can identify problems they wouldn’t necessarily see walking through the woods. In law enforcement, you can find a child lost in the woods more easily than walking through a field, particularly if there’s bad weather or treacherous ground.”

In fact, AUVSI predicts commercial drones could pump almost $14 billion into the U.S. economy between 2015-2018, and over a 10-year period, creating more than 100,000 new jobs, including 34,000 in manufacturing.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hasn’t yet legalized commercial drone usage, although it’s expected this will change sometime next year. But it won’t be easy for the FAA. The issue lies primarily with air traffic congestion. Analyst from Frost & Sullivan market research firm, Michael Blades, who is studying the commercial drone market, says, “The airspaces in Australia and Brazil, for instance, aren’t nearly as crowded as ours. And the first time one of these unmanned vehicles accidentally takes down a plane, the FAA will be torn apart. So the rule-making process is tricky, because in a way, the sky is a political battleground.”

Companies like Google and Amazon aren’t waiting around. Google’s advanced research lab, Google X, announced last week that it’s developing a system of drones to deliver goods. The Wall Street Journal reported that a five-foot wide single-wing prototype from Google’s Project Wing carried supplies including candy bars, dog treats, cattle vaccines, water, and radios to two farmers in Queensland, Australia, earlier this month. Amazon introduced drone prototypes last year and has asked the FAA for permission to test them in open U.S. airspace; a decision is pending.

This exciting technology could dramatically change the landscape of your business, so it’s worth putting on your watch list.

See the related article "Top Nine Commercial Uses for Drones."

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