The drone has become a service (“Drone as a Service”) and data is the currency by which it finds itself indispensable.
The publication this week of a report focusing on the European drone market shows that surely and quietly, the drone is making its way into business and business services.
The drone as a technology is somewhat controversial; for some merely annoying, and for others a source of very real privacy concerns. But for most, the drone is most likely buzzing just outside their radar.
Yet, it is a formidable ally of data, and for those who can apply it to their respective industries: agriculture, infrastructure, mining, energy, real estate, and many more.
The report by Drone Industry Insights, the Drone Industry Barometer 2018, shows that a growing number of companies are increasingly making use of drones, for specific applications and as part of end-to-end solutions. This trend in commercial and industrial sectors has lead to the rise of the Drone as a Service – that is, DaaS.
Today these services go beyond making a 3D film and photography over corporate installations like Apple Park, as professional applications continue to emerge and gradually take hold.
DroneII’s report looks at both the use of drones by service providers, as well as the fields of industry under the eyes of drone manufacturers and software developers. Survey applications remain number one for both drone manufacturers and service providers in terms of growth (62% and 67%), followed by building inspections or construction services (respectively 37% and 29% for drone service providers).
The use of drones in the inspection of energy and water infrastructure (27%) and in agriculture (24%) are also experiencing strong growth and this is expected to continue for the next 12 months.
The common denominator in these drone applications is the collection of data, and the subsequent processing and analytics that make drones invaluable.
Another reason behind this disruption of menial tasks is undeniably apparent: drones increase both the time and cost efficiency of tasks – and in certain cases also reduce risk in the case of dangerous jobs.
For example, surveying or inspection services can be done more quickly and easily than installing scaffolding, doing away with at height injuries, as well as considerable costs.
The density of captured data makes it possible for previously manual tasks to enter the digital age; multiple applications are available to facilitate the exploitation of this data, from thermal imaging of farm fields to automatic object or anomaly recognition in pipeline inspection.
In this way, drones have snuck through the door of productivity and business processes to make themselves more than just a cool industry tool, like a quadbike; with apps, sensors and connectivity they have integrated into industry in a way that perhaps has not been seen since the invention of the combustion engine.
On the side of service providers, a bit like logistics in its time, owning a drone (or a truck) is not enough anymore. With all the permissions required to fly a drone commercially these days – the registration, the competent driver, the professional drone and its various sensors – the barriers to entry are many.
But jump those hurdles many have, and thus “Drone as a Service” is now a platform that not only drives and optimizes data acquisition with drones, but also processes data and delivers it to service subscribers.
This platform allows economies of scale that make the service competitive compared to what a company could do on its own. It is also a platform for developing increasing applications, made possible by longer loads and flight times, and means of acquisition that will be more and more sophisticated in the future.
Consider the case of drone video surveillance.
Formerly consisting of mere video image offsets and registration for proof, video surveillance platforms now embed software to organize checkpoints.
Cameras now have the ability to use image recognition software to recognise animals (such as for scientific research), or license plates (perhaps by police monitoring speeding cars), for example.
The platforms that connect these cameras can then realize a real-time surveillance zone and offer this service to scientists, public safety agencies, infrastructure inspection and more.
The possible applications of drones as a service to industry is almost without limit; there are also many examples of drones being utilized to protect crops, monitor fires, to examine the factories or to follow farm stock.
In the short term the addition of drones to many a company’s arsenal is inevitable. But with the cost of equipment, integration of platforms and sensors, and the necessary regulatory application lying outside of many business budgets and time constraints, these companies are more than likely to reach out to the drone service provider.
Taking into account the real driver of this new phenomenon – data – the drone as a tool will eventually merely become a means to an end. It is the platform (and the data itself) where the true value lies, and for this reason, Drone as a Service will continue its rise.