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The way most drone companies plan to spend money in the coming year might surprise you

drone industry spend money 2022

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2020 was a record year for drone investment, which means expect big money to be spent in 2021 to put all that investor funding to use. And while there’s plenty of hiring to be had, the No. 1 way that drone companies say they intend to spend money in the coming year might surprise you.

Drone analytics company Drone Industry Insights asked representatives from drone companies what they prioritize when it comes to resource allocation as part of its annual Drone Industry Barometer 2021. The report collected responses from nearly 700 drone users worldwide in August 2021 across companies both large and small.

Here were the top ways drone companies said they will prioritize resource spending in the next 12 months (respondents could select multiple selections):

Chart via Drone Industry Insights

And here’s those same figures ranked how drone companies intend to spend money in numeric form::

  1. Marketing & sales (29%)
  2. Product development (software) (20%)
  3. Product development (hardware) (18%)
  4. Staff development (15%)
  5. Finances & funding (13%)
  6. Other (6%)

“Marketing remains the leading priority for the next 12 months, as it has been in the previous three years,” according to an analysis by DII.

29% of companies will focus resources on marketing and sales this year, which mirrors the 29% reported in 2020 and 27% in 2019. That’s a huge increase from the just 11% reported in 2018, which was in the relatively early days for drones.

“The competition in the drone market is tough – regardless if hardware, software or service segment. As niches fill up and highly-advanced technology becomes mainstream, unique selling points dilute. Marketing products towards new clients and out-rivaling competitors is a big ask, especially for small companies.”

Coming in at No. 2 is product development. Though the 20% figure for 2021 is far lower than the 32% reported back in 2018, it’s still a significant source of resource allocation for the drone industry.

“The market is still moving rapidly in terms of technical advancements,” according to DII. Not being ahead of the game means losing ground to competitors.”

But while drone companies are spending their money on marketing and sales, it’s something else entirely that they’re anticipating in order to see real growth: more favorable rules. DII also asked in its same report about what roles they considered to be the most important and significant to the growth of their businesses. The highest market-driving factor for the upcoming 12 months? Rule-making authorities.

Chart via Drone Industry Insights

“As technology matures and proof-of-concepts are completed, and as more and more paying customers start
waiting in line, the operational limits defined by these authorities begin to weigh higher and higher,” according to DII. “The pressure for the industry keeps rising – if clear roadmaps and regulatory frameworks don’t come into effect soon, it will become hard to scale any business within the commercial drone space.”

Those rule-making authorities largely hold the key to lots of aspects of drones that the industry largely agrees needs to be developed in order to advance widespread drone use, such as allowing drone flights beyond visual line of sight, or developing better remote identification of drones. (For what it’s worth, both of those questions have seen significant progress over the past year and will likely advance in the coming year).

Coming in second place by a mere rounding difference was drone manufacturers. After all, the drone industry is only as strong as the technology powering it, so it’s no surprise that companies are banking on technological improvements in the drones themselves.

If you’re a drone pilot or employee of a drone company, how are you expecting to spend money over the next 12 months? Are you in line with everyone else, or are your eyes on something else entirely? Leave a comment below!