JSON.TV attended InterDrone 2016 (The International Drone Conference & Exposition), which took place at Las Vegas on September 7-9.It is the largest commercial drone conference in North America with over 3,500 attendees from over 50 countries. We highlighted the main trends on the drone market.
The opening keynote was presented by Michael P. Huerta from Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). He declared that there are 520,000 hobbyists who are registered to use drones as we’ll as 30,000 commercial drone operators. This means that just in a few years the drone market grew from 0 to 550,000 registered drones. Just so you understand how big this number is, there are 320,000 registered manned aircrafts in the US and it took 100 years to get there.
It is evident that the drone market has a huge potential. They are used in many different industries and the only bounds of this technology are in the imagination of entrepreneurs and software developers. Drones are providing filmmakers with the fresh angle on the world, they are giving first responders a new tool for search and rescue operations, they are improving the safety of our transportation infrastructure by inspecting thousands of miles of rail tracks and pipelines. Drones are tackling jobs that can be dangerous for people or other aircraft to do, such as inspection of power lines or smokestacks.
FAA made it very clear that they will stay as flexible as possible to accommodate innovation but security and privacy are still important concerns for the agency.
“We want to see safe integration of unmanned aircraft in a way that doesn’t snuff out innovation” - Michael P. Huerta, Administrator of FAA, InterDrone 2016 Keynote
On the other side, 155 exhibitors and sponsors presented latest advances on the drone market. We divided directions of innovations into on-board improvements (computer vision, lidars, IR cameras and radars, and even robotic hands), human interaction improvements (phone, maps, pilot glasses) and drone data use cases (cloud computing enabling 3D mapping, precision agriculture, pile volume calculation).
Intel is the major innovator in terms of on-board drone improvements. Not only they provide end-user Project Aero compute board which is built specifically for drones, but also they produce Real Sense technology that provides drones withflight vision and sensing capabilities. Any developer and drone manufacturer can use these technologies to create more advanced and safe drones in the nearest future.
Major drone manufacturers build drones of various sizes and forms to accommodate the needs of potential customers. Chinese drone manufacturer Yuneec announced a brand new Breeze drone, or as they call it, the ultimate flying camera. It is the drone that fits in a pocket and can be used as a selfie making machine. On the other hand, ProDrone created 8-motor drone with robotic arms so that a drone can complete “manual” tasks.
Drone hardware is developed in a very fast pace and drones are becoming increasingly affordable. It is possible that soon enough consumer drones will become as widespread as smartphones helping people make beautiful shots for their social media. And specialised commercial drones are already able to help dozens of industries (agriculture, construction, security, insurance, mining, etc) to make their day-to-day operations more effective and/or less risky. The biggest bottleneck for the drone hardware is limited battery capacity as most drones can stay in the air from 30 minutes to an hour.
ProDrone created 8-motor drone with robotic arms so that a drone can complete “manual” tasks
Drones are becoming more advanced and complex but customers simply want to increase the efficiency of their operations using drones with minimum amount of hustle. That is why multiple companies work on platforms that facilitate the process of flying and managing the drone fleets.
Skyward and PrecisionHawk just announced a partnership that will provide a full-service Drone Platform for enterprise use. Using Skyward ensures efficient planning and managing of drone pilots, flights and data received from operations. PrecisionHawk provides LATAS safety platform ensuring that the drone won’t create dangerous situations in the airspace.
During the keynote speech Chris Anderson, the CEO of 3DR, talked extensively about the Dronecode, an open source, collaborative project that brings together existing and future open source drone projects under a non-profit structure governed by The Linux Foundation. The result will be a common, shared open source platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
There are few other initiatives that exist to facilitate the use of drones even further and stimulate the market growth. But it is clear thatmobile phones and tablets are the major tool for human-drone interaction and various mobile apps will evolve to empower fast-growing drone market.
Majority of biggest drone manufacturers equip their 2016 line-up of drones with 4K cameras. Besides that, modern drones are equipped with other radars and sensors. The amount of data generated by drones is going to be overwhelming which makes the companies that analyse and structure this data even more valuable.
PrecisionHawk also developed a DataMapper software for professional drone based mapping and analytics. The platform allows to measure the volume of a pile on construction site on a daily basis (the process that used to be done once a month) or analyse the crop health and take action before the losses turn out to be significant.
Skyward and PrecisionHawk just announced a partnership that will provide a full-service Drone Platform for enterprise use
Many other companies work to bring drone analytics to the market. Unfortunately, most of the time the process of drone data analytics is asynchronous, meaning that you need to land the drone, upload the data to your computer and wait for some time to receive the results. But if the recorded data was not good enough for some reason then you would have to redo the flight again.
According to Chris Anderson, the concept of advanced cloud A.I. would lead to the situation when the data would determine the mission of the drone instead of the other way around. In other words, instead of a person telling a drone where to fly in future the drone will decide on its own which is the most effective way to collect the necessary data and then act accordingly to collect it in the most effective and safe manner. This means that establishing a secure and fast connection between the drones in the air and cloud server which would act as a brain of the operation is one of the biggest challenges for the growing commercial drone market. Drones would leverage the 5G infrastructure at its best, because they would have to transfer terabytes of data every minute.
The drone market is growing exponentially and both personal and commercial drones are becoming more popular. They stimulate the innovation of other areas of technological market, including artificial intelligence, telecommunications and big data. J’son & Partners Consulting have 20-year experience in telecommunication, media and IT and is following closely the recent developments.
By Vitaly Bulatov
See also our Editorial material from Drone World Expo (15-16 November, San Jose, CA) about future of drone delivery
and transcription of the keynote speech of Colin Snow, Skylogic Research at Drone World Expo