44% of drone companies say they’ve seen a negative impact on their business operations since mid-March, when coronavirus rapidly accelerated its spread in the U.S.
That’s according to a survey of 160 people who either use or have interacted with Skyward, a drone workflow platform owned by Verizon.
Skyward last week emailed a survey around the coronavirus crisis, asking “what impact has the current crisis had on your drone operations?”
44% reported a clear negative impact. More specifically, 28% of respondents said their drone program development had been paused or stalled. 16% said flight operations have been grounded because of it.
But luckily, a slightly higher 45% reported no impact so far.
And what’s promising for the industry: 4% reported that coronavirus has actually accelerated or highlighted the need for drones in business.
How the coronavirus business impact could present a need for drones
4% of respondents in Skyward’s survey said coronavirus presented a need for their drones.
Those companies might include groups like the Chula Vista Police Department, which said it plans to use drones equipped with loudspeakers to help communicate information related to the coronavirus; or Antwork Robotics, which said it was using drones to deliver medical samples and supplies to Xinchang County People’s Hospital.
And both major agricultural company XAG and drone maker DJI, have said they are employing drones designed for agricultural spraying (usually pesticides and herbicides) to spray disinfectant in cities. DJI is using the Agras MG-1S, which is generally considered one of the best agricultural drones out there for spraying, in the containment efforts.
Perhaps of greatest interest is drone delivery: one of the use cases that the general public has latched onto as a primary function of drones. While drone delivery hasn’t been as widespread as many in the public expected (for a number of reasons, including concern about drones flying over people, air traffic management and more), this could be drone delivery’s moment as drones bring items to people who cannot leave their homes, or transport supplies back and forth from already crowded hospitals.
What to do if your business has been hurt by coronavirus
But still, 44% of drone companies being negatively affected by coronavirus is not exactly good news.
As industries like real estate see a slip in home buying, drone pilots who take real estate photos end up losing out on jobs. In some states, construction is being considered “non-essential work” and operations have shut down. With it, drone work shuts down.
If your drone business is suffering because of coronavirus-related lack of work, there is relief for you. Here’s a guide to how some private companies, non-profits and governments are providing financial relief and other help to drone workers affected by coronavirus (in it you’ll find insurance plan waivers, low-interest loans, grants, and more).
And if your drone work is on pause, here are some ways that you can still keep your drone business productive, even if you aren’t able to fly or do other work:
Learn something to augment your drone skillset
Wish you knew more about computer programming? How about entrepreneurship? Robotics?
Here’s a list of over 400, free online classes offered by the eight Ivy Leagues that can augment your drone skillset in other areas like computer programming, entrepreneurship and robotics.
- Robotics: Aerial Robotics from University of Pennsylvania
- Introduction to Engineering and Design from Brown University
- Introduction to Computer Science from Harvard University
- Exposing Digital Photography from Harvard University
- Entrepreneurship: Launching your Start-Up from University of Pennsylvania
Study for your Part 107 exam
If you haven’t yet gotten your Remote Pilot Certificate, start studying to earn it now (you need one in order to fly drones commercially in the U.S.). To get it, you need to pass an Aeronautical Knowledge Test. I recommend signing up for an online course through a site like Drone Launch Academy or Drone Pilot Ground School, both of which come with video tutorials, practice exams and access to community forums to help you study.
What is Skyward?
Portland, Oregon-based drone fleet management company Skyward was acquired by Verizon in February, 2017 for an undisclosed sum of money. Verizon has been using Skyward’s technology to streamline drone operations into one, end-to-end platform that includes mission planning, FAA compliance support, supplying information about restricted airspace and pilot credentialing, drone registration and provisioning rate plans for drones on Verizon’s network.
Verizon has been pushing Skyward’s “Drones for Good” use cases, including highlighting how its drones work in search and rescue in a TV ad.
What sort of coronavirus business impact has your company seen? Do you think the changing business landscape will help or hurt drone operations? What do you think this means for the drone industry? Leave a comment below!