Where are drone companies primarily spending money in 2023? It’s not R&D

How are drone companies prioritizing the ways they’re spending money in 2023? It’s definitely not product development or research, and it’s not staff development either.

There’s one aspect of business spending that has been the most common among a plurality of drone companies every year singe 2019. And this year, even more companies are joining that plurality. The area set to see the most resource spending over the next year is “marketing and sales.”

That’s according to this year’s Drone Industry Barometer 2022, created by the team at Hamburg, Germany-based drone research firm Drone Industry Insights. The annual report looks at all sorts of drone-related data and is based off a June 2022 survey of 891 drone industry stakeholders (primarily representatives from small and mid-sized companies) across 81 countries.

DII spending money in 2022 drone companies

The top category for spending money in 2023: Marketing and sales

33% of drone companies say they intend to prioritize resource spending on marketing and sales this year. That’s far ahead of pretty much every other spending category. The next closest area to get resource allocation priority through the rest of this year and into 2023 is staff development.

What’s interesting about the marketing and sales category is how it continues to grow in priority. Meanwhile, other categories that used to be big spending areas, like software and hardware development, are rapidly dwindling in priority. Perhaps that’s unsurprisingly, as when drones first took off, there wasn’t actually much good available tech so it had to be built. Now, the tech is there, so it has to be sold.

What’s especially fascinating is that the 33% percent of companies emphasizing marketing and sales this year is actually one percentage point higher than the 32% off companies that prioritize spending on software development back in 2018.

Perhaps all those tech investors are itching to get a return on their investments, and actually want to see the products they’ve invested in get sold.

Here’s DII’s take on the trend:

“Most importantly, the level of importance in marketing has tripled since 2018, and this may be caused by two key reasons:

  1. One is the fact that the drone industry is highly innovative and exploratory, so it relies on events and shows that could not or did not take place over the past couple of years. Therefore, companies had to invest a lot more on marketing in order to showcase their products.
  2. Another key reason is the amount of sophisticated hardware and software that already exists, which means that companies must focus more on their USP (Unique Selling Point) and therefore need to prioritize their communications and marketing.”

Related read: Why 2020 drone investment hit a record high — despite COVID

The areas seeing spending growth in 2023

Not only has spending money on marketing and sales always been high, but it’s set to see even more growth this year. Only three of the six possible categories available for selection in they survey are set to see an increase in spending versus last year. Three areas — software development, hardware development and the nebulous ‘other’ category are set to see a drop in spending.

DII said ‘other’ encompassed areas including developing partnerships, international cooperation, facility expansion and business development.

The category of ‘finances and funding are set to see a small, 2-point increase in spending year-over-year. But ‘marketing & sales,’ as well as ‘staff development’ tied for the No. 1 spot with a high, 4-point increase in the perfect of companies who say they intend to prioritize resource spending in that category this year.

“In order for drone companies to succeed, they need the right personnel, and it is now more important than ever to prioritize staff development given the increased level of competition to find the right people with the right qualifications,” according to DII.

Check out more insights from the Drone Industry Barometer by reading the full report here, available free for download.

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