The Big Business of Drones

April 22, 2016


From saving lives to transporting goods, attention is turning to the drone market to provide solutions. With an estimated worth of $5.59 Billion by 2020, most growth in the drone market will be on the consumer/civilian side, according to Business Insider, as the market grows beyond the military sector.

Ranging in price from £20 to over £4000, there are already hundreds of drones on the market for every type of use case, and they’re being used for a variety of commercial and personal interests.

Drone photography

Drone photography

The newest piece of tech kit for photographers and videographers, drones are being used to capture aerial shots relatively cheaply, allowing a wider and more spectacular view of the world around us. From beautiful, cinematic aerial shots for a wedding to the best extreme sports perspectives, drones allow pro’s in the imaging sector gain easy access to the shots that used to require big budgets…and helicopters. Our very own SanDisk Extreme Team Member Kirill Umrikhin shares this view, saying “shooting with a drone is a great opportunity to find new angles and see the world through a different perspective”. Find a link to his work here.

Variety of uses

News and media industries are no brainer vertical markets for drones, but there are many other sectors starting to benefit as well. Agriculture is using drone technology to monitor livestock. Security sectors are using drones to supplement foot and vehicle patrols.

With technology deeply engrained in our day-to-day lives, is it possible that drones could become the newest arm of our tech toolkit? Where would we be without our mobile phones and tablets, after all? Technology can be a life saver at times, and drones in particular are a great form of rescue.

Take the following examples from NBC News: “A lifeguard-controlled drone scours for sharks at Seal Beach in Southern California. In Germany, a drone brings a defibrillator to a man on a golf course having a heart attack. And during the floods in Texas this year, drones served up flotation devices to stranded people.”

Right here in Liverpool where FK3 are based, our own Merseyside police were able to make the UK’s first flying drone arrest. By using the drone’s on-board thermal imaging technology, it’s operator who was directing the drone from remote control on the ground, was able to use live images of the suspect’s body-heat to direct patrols to the spot where he was hiding. (source: Liverpool Echo).

If police action isn’t exciting enough, how about saving an endangered species? According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), more than 20,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2014 and nearly 1,300 rhinos were poached in Africa last year — a number that spiked from 62 killed rhinos in 2007, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

However, a saviour may be on the horizon in the form of drones. “A new method using drones has proven effective in stopping the poachers in their tracks, from thousands of miles away”, according to NBC News.

New commercial applications

Besides aiding in humanitarian efforts, drones are making a splash in the consumer shopping space as well. Have you heard about Amazon’s Prime Air drones yet? One of the most exciting technological advancements in delivery systems to date, Amazon is working on getting packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles. Can drones solve all of our last minute shopping panics? Never worry about that last minute birthday present panic again!

Amazon delivery drone

According to Amazon, “Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services Amazon already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system”. Brilliant!

Drones are also making quite an impression on estate agents, according to ‘An aerial photograph or short video of a property will greatly increase its saleability. Not only does the image give a better idea of the size of the property but it also shows the extent of the gardens and land and it can better describe the setting of the elements for sale’. If anyone reading this is looking to sell their house, drones may just be the way of your home attracting the buyers!

Potential Downsides

There are undoubtedly some fantastic benefits to using drone technology, not without its controversy, and the downside of drones can be seen to be quite unappealing.

The matter of personal privacy is a much talked-about issue when it comes to drones. According to the Telegraph, a ‘thing to be wary of is using a drone to record images of other people without their consent, as this could be construed as a breach of the Data Protection Act, or of the CCTV code of practice, which was recently extended to include public use of drones where they are collecting information about individuals’.

The invasion of privacy is a true matter at hand, with many individuals and parents concerned of the risk of drones acting as a ‘peeping tom’. “You must avoid flying it within 150 metres of a congested area and 50 metres of a person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the pilot.”

According to Sally Annereau, a data protection analyst at Taylor Wessing, “there are a whole host of considerations here. We’ve got the aviation law, we’ve got data protection, we’ve got privacy, and we’ve got confidentiality and harassment. It’s the aeronautical equivalent of a minefield,” she said. “The lines are becoming very blurred between when something is purely domestic and when does it stray into the commercial. It won’t always be clear when that’s the case.”

Only last week we saw the first recorded drone strike of an aircraft, a British Airways flight from Geneva hit a drone as landed at London’s Heathrow Airport. Steve Landells, from the British Airline Pilots Association, said it was “only a matter of time,” ‘given the increasing number of misbehaving drones endangering UK and US skies. According to the article ‘drone operators who fly their gadgets near an airport can already be punished with up to five years in prison in the UK’, you should definitely abide by the law folks!

Coming back to our corner of the world, we experienced controversy in the form of Liverpool gangs using small drones to fly drugs into prisons. The attempt was made at Walton prison where the drone was found after crashing into a fence. According to the Liverpool Echo, “‘there were nine attempts to use drones to infiltrate prisons in England and Wales in the first five months of this year”.

It seems that, as with all technology, we will have to take the good with the bad. We can be sure, though, that drones will have huge impacts on industries benefiting from their ability to capture photos and videos from previously impossible angles, and the number of exciting use cases could be endless.