The average person thinking of the most common use case for drones might say photography. But for drone industry pros, photography is only a small percent of the possible use cases. In 2021, photography was only the third most popular use case among internal businesses, and the fourth most common offering from drone service providers. So what is the top reason people use drones for commercial applications these days?
Germany-based research firm Drone Industry Insights released its latest Drone Industry Barometer 2021, which was based on 678 survey responses from drone users across 64 countries, collected in August 2021. Respondents represented companies as small as individual business owners or small businesses with fewer than ten employees, to large companies with more than 500 people, coming from the hardware, software and service provider sector. And here’s how people using drones commercially said they actually use drones:
The top reason people use drones in 2021 is for inspections. That holds true for both businesses operating drones on their own for internal purposes, as well drone service providers, which are third-party service companies that offer drone services to clients (say, a drone company contracted by Shell to inspect their flare tips and roof tanks). Not only is inspections far and away the top reason people use drones in 2021, but the use case is growing at a rapid clip.
Last year, the share of business internal services using drones for inspections was just 18%, a figure which skyrocketed to 49% in 2021. For drone service providers, the share of inspections remained roughly flat, though still a significant 35%.
That’s unsurprisingly, given how much news has been in that field over the past year. Chevron announced earlier this year that it was using drones to conduct visual and thermal inspection of Chevron’s onshore flare stacks in Indonesia. Inspections have been made easier by the growth of LiDAR technology. While the global LiDAR market was valued at $1.1 billion as of 2019, it’s projected to reach $2.8 billion by 2025 and $3.21 billion by 2027.
Drone mapping software companies DroneDeploy said that LiDAR and Point Cloud processing and analysis was the most requested feature across all industries.
And in that same vein comes an adjacent use case: mapping and surveying. Mapping and surveying represents the second most common method for using commercial drones.
And while photography and filming still come in at fourth and third place for drone service providers and business internal services, respectively, the field is losing ground. Photography & filming lost the most shares compared to last year than any other use case. Note: that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer people are using drones for filming and photography, it just means a greater share are using them for inspections. There are still plenty of people out there using drones for photography, whether it’s weddings, Hollywood films or anything else.
And here’s a perhaps more interesting note. While it’s true that drones can certainly save costs and time, that’s not the top reason why companies are using drones. They No. 1 reason why companies say they want to adopt drones is to improve quality of work.
That “speaks a lot for the work that drones carry out and their capacity to deliver better results than other alternatives,” according to a statement from DII.
Saving time came in as the No. 2 most important reason, improving work safety came in at No. 3, while saving costs was ranked the fourth most important reason to adopt drones. This is actually the first year in DII’s barometer that ‘saving time’ did not rank No. 1.
If you operate drones for a business, what’s the top reason that you’ve adopted them? Share your thoughts in the comments below!