Drone World Expo, held in San Jose (CA, 15-16 November), is the defining event for the commercial applications of UAS technology. J’son & Partners with JSON.TV attended the conference to get a sneak peek of commercial drone industry.
On the first day, the keynote speakers discussed the future of drones. Laurie Jordan (ESRI), Dr. Joseph Rios (NASA), Terah Lyons (White House Office of Science & Technology Policy) and Into Piroth (IBM) talked about the ways of collaboration that would allow to create an environment where drone companies can become more efficient and successful.
The session started with a brief review of the current situation on the drone market and results achieved in 2015/2016:
- UAS Registration system was implemented
- Recommendations for the FAA Micro UAS ARC
- NTIA and Industry Best Practices Created and Adopted
- Congressional Extension of FAA Reauthorisation Act
- Part 107 regulation takes effect
- The Waiver Process is getting momentum
According to Info, the next 4-5 years we going to see the development of drone value chain that will include automation, systems integration (operator, dispatch, etc) and systems for ensuring privacy and security. And all these will be implemented globally and at scale.
The use cases for drones vary from cellphone towers or railway inspections to mosquito control and whale watching.
The panel agreed that the major challenge on the market is regulatory environment. Regulators all over the world are exploring the ways to safely integrate drones in the national airspace, but in most countries the regulations are in a quite nascent form. the goal of the drone industry is to generate successful use cases and educate the public about the positive influence of drone technology.
Moreover, the panel participants expect that vast majority of drone operations will be observation based while drone delivery might be around 1-3% of the drone services market. At this point it is interesting to talk about the second day keynote: The Realities of Drone Delivery.
Google Wings and Zipline representatives talked about drone delivery projects they were working on. They told that even though drone delivery originally seemed like a marketing gimmick, it has become a serious focus for their companies and there are already a few of very successful use cases.
Lawrence Williams explained how Zipline is currently deploying the first nationwide drone delivery system in Rwanda, Africa. Their goal is to put al citizens within 15-35 minutes of any essential medical product. Dr. Kerry Palakanis stressed that even in US there are hard-to-reach areas that don’t have constant access to essential medicine. Crisfield Clinic she works in is located on a Smith Island in Maryland and in winter period there could be no connection to the mainland for weeks. Zipline and Crisfield Clinic plan to initiate a drone delivery service to the island once regulatory approvals are received.
To sum it up, the drone market is in the crawl stage, according to Greg Agvent from CNN. The drone community need to work together and educate the public to evolve gradually and be able to go from crawl to walk and, eventually, to run stage!
By Vitaly Bulatov
See also our editorial material from InterDrone 2016 (7-9 September, Las Vegas)
and transcription of the keynote speech of Colin Snow, Skylogic Research at Drone World Expo