By many metrics, 2020 certainly wasn’t a bad year for drones. Drone delivery proliferated. People were accepting of use cases like drones delivering at-home COVID test kits.
But as was the case for most industries, workflows were at least disrupted due to changes in COVID-19 procedures. Lockdwns still prevented companies from executing some operations. Layoffs still happened.
And now for the good news: 2021 is set to be a big year for the drone industry, and it’s in large part due to the bricks that were laid for the drone industry in light of coronavirus. At least, that’s according to these DroneDeploy 2021 predictions.
Drone software company DroneDeploy surveyed more than 600 users across 20 industries spanning over 40 countries to find out how companies are approaching 2021. 88% of respondents said they expect to increase or maintain their spend on drone operations in 2021. More specifically, 53% of respondents said they intend to increase spending, vs. maintain.
“Even with all of the cost-cutting amidst the pandemic, companies are still willing to invest in drone technology,” according to the DroneDeploy State of the Drone Industry Report 2021. “This data also suggests where drone technology had previously been perhaps a luxury for many companies, more and more industries are now embracing it as a necessity.”
That was the case early on in the pandemic. In April and May, at the height of the first pandemic lockdown, DroneDeploy saw a 160% increase in enterprise flights compared to the same period in 2019. Widening out for the whole year, DroneDeploy saw a 259% growth in enterprise users in 2020 vs. 2019. But perhaps even more surprising: the number of enterprise users grew by 1.6x more in 2020 than in 2013-2019 combined.
As 2021 continues, expect most of the growth to be on the commercial and industrial side of the drone industry. Drone software company DroneDeploy said they saw a 33% increase in drone takeoffs among U.S. agricultural clients from mid-March to mid-April 2020. Delivery companies are getting approvals at faster rates, and public opinion is being pushed more in their favor.
“You’re hearing stories of businesses that put everything on pause, but drone delivery is growing faster than ever,” said Kevin Wasik, Head of Global Business Development at UPS Flight Forward, the drone delivery arm of the multinational package delivery giant. “The pandemic was only an accelerator for us.”
Among the biggest growth areas, based on DroneDeploy’s study:
- 52% of DroneDeploy’s energy-focused clients say they intend to increase spending in 2021.
- 57% of respondents indicated they plan to expand beyond aerial maps in the coming year.
- 27% said they plan to implement LiDAR capabilities into their program in 2021.
- 62% of DroneDeploy’s energy-focused clients say they intend to increase spending in 2021.
- In 2020, the number of flights in the energy sector grew by over 200% in Q2 and Q3 compared to the same periods in 2019.
- 45% of DroneDeploy’s energy-focused clients say they intend to increase spending in 2021.
On the hobby side of things, stay-at-home orders (or at least, stay-outside-and-away-from-other-people orders) revived what had been an expected, waning interest in the hobby (surely the hype could not be maintained for that long). Google Trends data showed that keywords that suggest high purchasing intent among drone hobbyists such as “best drones” and “buy drone,” hit renewed highs, based on data from drone research company Drone Analyst.
“The peak in April and May of this year was tied for the largest non-holiday month, back in July of 2017,” according to Drone Analyst’s report.
A big reason why drones are likely proliferating? Their inherent nature of social distancing. And that means better safety.
Respondents to the 2021 DroneDeploy predictions survey indicated that increased safety (39% vs. 29%), risk management (38% vs. 21%), and compliance (25% vs. 19%) were the main issues drone technology solved for them.
Do you anticipate the drone industry will grow in 2021? Or are you less-than-optimistic? Leave a comment below!