Things are looking up for a drone takeover

We’ve all seen them in the news: A drone lands on the White House lawn. Drone racing is the next sport of the modern age. Dutch police train eagles to attack surveillance drones. A drone is used to drop illegal drugs into an Ohio prison yard. Amazon plans to use drones to deliver packages. Google announces the use of suborbital drones to broadcast wifi to remote areas of the planet …

Unmanned aerial vehicles once were a small recreational niche but now are becoming the headlines of major stories in security, technology, sports and overall controversy. So what has caused such an accelerated market growth in these small, yet powerful devices?

Advancements in technology. The features and technology used in drones are rapidly developing, exceeding even the smartphone industry. It seems that every year, new devices hit the market with improved components and at a lower sticker price. Some drones now utilize 4K video recordings and have the ability to set GPS coordinates to accurately record precise footage and measurements. eHang, a Chinese company, is even testing an automated drone large enough to carry humans (for an entry price of $200,000 to $300,000). Much of this advancement in technology is driven by the consumers whom demand bigger and better products year after year.

Investments are booming. Despite an overwhelming increase in Federal Aviation Administration regulations regarding the usage of UAVs, investments in drone conglomerates have grown exponentially over the past year. According to CB Insights, in 2015 drone startup companies raised more than $450 million, an increase of more than 300 percent versus 2014 data. A January report by BI Intelligence highlights more dramatic figures to consider:

• Projected revenues from drone sales could top $12 billion in 2021.

• Shipments of consumer drones will more than quadruple over the next five years.

• Safety technologies such as geo-fencing and collision avoidance will relax FAA regulations and enable large numbers of drones to take to the sky.

• Sports markets have been stimulated by large investments for competitive drone-racing leagues.

Applications on the rise. Drones continue to fill the skies as demand continues to parallel the amount of manufacturers in the market. As technologies continue to develop, more industries are seeing plausible applications for drone usage. The commercial markets of agriculture, land management, energy, construction, and oil and gas all have found lucrative ways to utilize drones in their respective fortes. Large defense-focused manufacturers also are emerging as government and security entities begin to enter the market.

Expect to see drones trending through more facets of our economy as the year continues. As technology and applications continue to expand, the FAA and government agencies will continue to be pressured to regulate both the commercial and recreational usage of UAVs.

For the recreational enthusiasts: Use common sense when flying these devices for personal use.  Keep your drones under 400 feet in altitude, steer clear of airports, pedestrians and vehicles, and always keep your device in visual sight while operating.

Hans Broman, a sales and marketing strategist at iPoint in Fort Collins, can be reached at hbroman@ipoint-tech.com.

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