Here are the biggest drone use cases for 2022 —and the most common ways we’re using them

Even though your average Jane might assume that most drones are used for photography, that’s not actually how most industries use them. In fact, photography and filming accounts for just 10% of drone applications. So how are companies using drones? Here are the most popular drone use cases for 2022.

The team at German-based drone analytics firm Drone Industry Insights released its latest set of research to find the top drone applications.

drone use cases for 2022 industry insights
Graphic courtesy of Drone Industry Insights

The top industries for drone technology for 2022

Before digging into how enterprise users operate drones, DII dug into the industries actually using drones. The top 3 industries using drones, according to DII, are:

  1. Energy (14% of all drone applications)
  2. Construction (12% of all drone applications)
  3. Agriculture (11% of all drone applications)

Energy is far and away the biggest industry user of drones. It’s also a huge industry — and it has a lot of money. By and large, energy companies are using drones for inspections of a range of equipment, including pipelines, wind turbines and oil storage tanks. The benefits are far-reaching.

“By using a drone instead of a person, the inspector does not need to enter to dangerous areas, and the powerline/turbine that is being inspected usually does not have to be shut down to guarantee human safety, which means it continues to operate and generate revenue,” according to a statement from DII.

The use of drones in energy has skyrocketed as of late. Global energy flights increased 123% and users increased 86% between 2018 and 2019, according to DroneDeploy data. Perhaps even more stark, flights conducted for or by energy companies jumped 74% between 2020’s Q2 vs. Q1.

Just last year, California-based DroneBase raised a $12.5 million Series C funding round to expand its work in solar and wind energy, which is a field DroneBase has already been digging into couple years.

The top drone application methods for 2022

But not every energy company uses drones the same way, nor does any other industry using drones. One agricultural company might use drones to collect NDVI data, while another farmer might want drones for spraying fertilizer. Farmers in some countries in Africa even use drones to herd elephants away from their crops, to prevent them from trampling on precious farmland.

Related read: 10 ways drones are changing the future of agriculture

Thus, DII also uncovered the top ways that industries use drones.  The top drone application methods, according to DII, are:

  1. Mapping and Surveying (34% of all drone applications)
  2. Inspections (25% of all drone applications)
  3. Photography and filming (10% of all drone applications)

Alas, herding elephants did not make the top three drone use cases for 2022. But the applications that did make the top three all have something strong in common: they make the process faster, safer, and capture more and better data than what a human could. And even among companies that only use drones one or two times a week, month or even year, their missions tend to save companies in many ways. 

According to DII, there are 2 big ways that drones can save. Those are:

  • Money
  • Time

Meanwhile, drones improve on the following two categories:

  • Quality of results
  • Worker safety

The most successful drone use cases typically can check the box for addressing three (and sometimes even all four) of those things.

For its data gathering, DII breaks industries down into 17 different drone industry verticals (many of which have a number of sub-categories). They are:

  1. Agriculture
    • Animal Production
    • Crop Production
    • Fishing/Hunting
    • Forestry
  2. Arts and Entertainment
  3. Construction
    • Construction of Buildings
    • Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction
  4. Cargo, Courier Services, Intralogistics and Warehousing
  5. Energy
    • Oil and Gas Extraction
    • Oil and Gas Distribution
    • Power Generation and Distribution
    • Water, Sewage and other Systems
  6. Educational, Scientific and Technical Services
  7. Health Care and Disaster Relief
  8. Information and Motion Pictures
    • Broadcasting/Hosting
    • Motion Picture
  9. Insurance
  10. Mining and Quarrying
  11. Public Administration
    • Administration of Environmental Quality Programs
    • Administration of Housing Programs, Urban Planning, and Community Development
  12. Public Emergency Services
    • Police
    • Fire Department
    • Other National Security Authorities 
  13. Real Estate and Industrial Plants
  14. Safety and Security
  15. Telecommunications
  16. Transportation Infrastructure and Maintenance
    • Air Transportation and MRO
    • Rail Transportation and MRO
    • Road Transportation and MRO
    • Water Transportation and MRO
  17. Waste Management and Remediation Services

While not in the top three, there are still some sectors that stand out for particularly interesting drone applications.

Look to the public administration sector, where you’ll find government agencies that manage programs like environmental quality programs, housing programs and urban planning turning to drones.  We’ve seen drones that are equipped with water-sampling devices like Nixie’s Reign Maker used to monitor the quality of water. Nixie is a patented, external device compatible with the DJI M600 and M300 RTK commercial platforms

And those aren’t the only government agencies using drones. Fire departments use drones to assess areas during or after fires. For them, thermal data gathered via drone can be particularly useful in understanding the status of a fire and making more informed decisions about their firefighting strategy.

You can learn more about the biggest drone use cases for 2022 via Drone Industry Insights’ Drone Application Report 2022 here.

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