Sky’s the limit for the sUAS industry as commercial opportunities and services...

Sky’s the limit for the sUAS industry as commercial opportunities and services proliferate

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Image Courtesy: Konnect Aviation

US: The small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) industry, and most notably commercial drone platforms and services, will become ever more common across a range of market verticals, announced ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies.

In its most wide-reaching and comprehensive market analysis of the sUAS market to date, ABI Research finds that from 2017 to 2027, the number of yearly shipments of drones will increase from 13 million to over 23 million, and collective revenues from platforms, accessories, and services will increase from US$6 billion in 2017 to just under US$70 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 31%. The commercial market accounts for the lion’s share of this increase, rising from 34% of the total industry revenue in 2017 to 74% in 2027.

“This growth in the commercial drone market rests on growth opportunities across a range of verticals, particularly those in which the drone’s ability to loiter, work indoors, provide high resolution and constant updates, makes it a preferable platform to other aerial imaging sources such as manned aircraft and satellites,” said Rian Whitton, Research Analyst at ABI Research. Key potential verticals include construction, insurance, infrastructure inspection, warehouse logistics, and oil and gas. Other large market opportunities are to be found in agriculture and film & entertainment.

When it comes to revenue, the platform and hardware accessories form only a portion of the value for the sUAS industry. ABI Research argues that most of the revenue for commercial drones comes not from the platform itself, but from application services such as data analytics and processing. While most platforms are rudimentary, the need to process and derive insights from huge amounts of aerial imaging data is a considerable challenge, and very hard to develop in-house.

The expansion in commercial drone opportunities is undergirded by substantial growth in revenue for the use of sUAS in civil and military applications. In line with wider trends, the civil sUAS market will continue to see strong growth, reaching a revenue of over US$5 billion in 2027 and enjoy a CAGR of 25.2% from 2017 to 2027. The force behind this growth is the strong interest and growing adoption from law enforcement and public safety bodies.

Of note, there has been a significant upward revision in ABI Research’s projection for the military sUAS market. While the most attention and capital are focused on developing more sophisticated larger UAS for long-range Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance (IRS) and combat roles, there is high demand for sUAS solutions in IRS and targeting. With defense budgets growing globally and the development of autonomous drones that can act in swarms being touted by military thinkers as a major innovation, ABI Research expects the military market to grow from US$1.8 billion in 2017 to US$8.4 billion in 2027.

While the Consumer sUAS industry will continue to grow, its relative importance will decline, from 33% of total revenues in 2017 to 6% of total revenues in 2027. There are manifold reasons for this, including initial overhype, increased regulation against consumer flight, a race to the bottom through price decrease, and a general exodus from the market following the understanding that Shenzhen-based DJI has near-complete dominance of the platform market.

The market forecast provides a market share breakdown highlighting the major drone platform vendors. Shenzhen-based DJI is the undisputed market leader in both consumer and commercial markets. Other major players include Aerovironment, Aurora Flight Sciences, Parrot, Kespry, Aeryon Labs, Yuneec Precision Hawk and Atlas Dynamics.

Whitton concludes, “Increasing demand from a growing variety of markets, and increased appreciation of the unique properties of drones, is coalescing with a proliferation of drone solution providers to create a very optimistic forecast for future growth.”

These findings are from ABI Research’s The Small Unmanned Aerial System Ecosystem report. This report is part of the company’s Robotics, Automation & Intelligent Systems research service, which includes research, data, and Executive Foresights.