Did coronavirus help or hurt demand for drones? It depends who you ask.
While 15% of drone companies said they saw an increase for demand in drones since coronavirus, 43% of companies experienced a drop in demand.
At least that’s the results of the Drone Industry Barometer 2020 by German research firm Drone Industry Insights, which surveyed 697 companies in May 2020 that use drones. The companies came from a range of industries including inspections, surveying, filmmaking, detection, and drone delivery.
With Hollywood largely shut down in the early part of the pandemic and a a huge drop in home sales between March and April 2020 due to restrictions around real estate activities in some states (though the real estate market has since seen a huge recovery in 2020), many use-cases for drones were put on pause. 16% of companies reported either staff layoffs or downsizing, according to the May 2020 survey.
Interestingly, 19% of companies reported that coronavirus had no impact on their business — perhaps because drones inherently don’t need people to operate anyway.
But still, a lucky 15% of companies saw growth due to coronavirus.
“The reason that the industry saw any increase in demand at all amid an economic downturn is that the coronavirus crisis largely triggered a shift in attitudes towards disruptive technologies of clients,” according to the Drone Industry Insights report.
It’s also important to consider that the survey was conducted in May 2020, when people still largely put activity on hold to assess the state of coronavirus. In fact, a separate survey conducted in March found that a whopping 44% of drone companies said they saw a negative impact on their business operations that month.
Contrast that with current times, where people are adjusting to ‘new normals,’ which often calls for greater use of new technology, whether it’s contactless payments, food delivery apps or, yes, drones.
“Legally mandated social distancing caused an increase in demand and applicability of all sorts of automated services, including for example, drone deliveries of medical goods, food and e-commerce,” the report stated. Moreover, companies sought to employ machines to do work that humans would previously be tasked with, striving to keep their employees out of harm’s way.”
For example, this summer, the trend emerged that real estate drones would be more important than ever, allowing potential homebuyers to virtually ‘walk’ all around a potential property and the surrounding neighborhood without ever having to go see it in person — all thanks to a drone.
And coronavirus provided an obvious landmark opportunity for drone delivery, as drones could deliver everything from PPE for medical providers, to at-home coronavirus test kits to basic pantry items to people’s homes.
Perhaps the best news — and proof that the drone industry is a resilient industry. 54% of survey respondents said they believed that ultimately COVID-19 would positively impact the industry, while just 17% thought the effects would be negative (29% had no opinion).
The drone industry has always been a disruptive one. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal for many, the silver lining is that it might have provided the disruption needed to really allow drones to take off.