Why Drones Are The Future Of Business

by Preeti S    May 14, 2015

Shara Evans

With Amazon ready to test Prime Air, an unmanned aerial vehicle, designed to deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes, and patenting its anytime-anywhere service, the ecommerce giant is closer to revolutionising the delivery system.

The benefits of drone technology go beyond ecommerce or military, as every business is essentially taking into consideration the technology that is futuristic and booming.

According to a study by Business Insider, the market for commercial/civilian drones will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2015 and 2020, compared with 5% growth on the military side.

ABI Research predicts the commercial market for small UAVs will grow from an estimated $652 million in 2014 to more than $5.1 billion by 2019.

“UAVs, commonly referred to as drones or flying robots, like many emerging technologies will challenge businesses to think outside the box. How can I solve a real-world problem in a different way? How can I use smart technology to drive efficiencies in my business or supply chain?” Shara Evans, CEO for Market Clarity, and a technology futurist, told CXOToday.

Business opportunities

She says the opportunities for UAVs lie in reaching locations that are either inaccessible or present dangers to humans like in mining, offshore oil + gas installations and pipelines, construction sites, radio towers. In scientific and industrial applications drones are equipped with a wide array of sensors and cameras including laser rangefinders, thermal imaging cameras, pressure sensors, humidity sensors and chemical sensors.

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“There are many industries that can benefit from cost-effective aerial surveying, mapping and monitoring. When you add high definition video, and specialised sensors there are many applications, across a wide range of industries. Even small businesses such as videographers or real estate agents can benefit from camera or video-equipped drone technology.

”There’s also an opportunity to use technologies such as geo-fencing to establish drone fly/no-fly zones. And, virtual reality (VR) control interfaces could provide a much more robust mechanism to manually control flying robots as compared to using a smartphone or joystick with visual sighting as the sole means of drone control,” said Shara, who also made a presentation at CeBIT Australia recently.

Revenue options

Drones can be used to save money, make money (perhaps through brand new lines of business) or solve problems, says Evans.

   Also read: Facebook plans to change the world with AI

Revenue benefits depend on the application. It’s hard to put a value on something like saving a life. “For example, drones are being used for search and rescue missions and fighting fires. There’s even an ambulance drone that’s equipped with a defibrillator, which is reducing the mortality rate in cardiac arrest victims by getting onsite very quickly,” she says.

Challenges in adoption

Manually operated drones can present challenges even for skilled operators. In the USA, even military drones which are controlled by air force pilots have crashed. Radio signals that are used to control drones can run into various types of interference, and wind, birds or other obstacles can cause problems. So, there are potential safety issues, which would have business liability.

There are various licensing requirements in different parts of the world that are framed according to drone weight/size and/or commercial use. “In Australia, commercial operators need to have appropriate operators certificate, and the person operating the drone needs to have a Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC) or a UAV Controller Certificate (UAV CC). However, non-commercial / private use of UAVs weighing less than 2 kg is outside the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) jurisdiction,” she says.

There are also privacy issues. If a drone is equipped with camera or video technology, businesses can be liable for any inappropriate images they may capture and/or publish.And, there are noise issues. Most drones are very noisy!

The need for regulations

Evans has these suggestions for the governments to regulate drone use

1.  Establish a set of guidelines or regulations as to when and where different types of drones can be used — and make sure that these are widely publicised, including on the packaging of commercial products. Guidelines could cover things like drone weight, size, noise levels, control mechanisms (manual or autonomous), geolocation methodologies, commercial use, and deployment geography (metro, regional, remote).

2. Establish a registration and licensing regime, similar to the way that road vehicles are registered. Drones that are manually controlled could require testing / pilot licensing even for private use, whereas fully autonomous drones might have different standards. Furthermore, regulations could vary by geography — there’s little harm that could result from playing with a drone in a remote area, whereas the same actions could present dangers in the middle of a densely populated city.

3. Use a black box type technology for forensic analysis in the advent of crashes or other incidents.

4. Establish clear privacy guidelines and regulations that would apply to any drones that are equipped with camera or video technology — irrespective of whether the drones are used for commercial or private use.

5. Establish “highways in the sky” — air corridors that are approved for drone use, especially in metro areas.