drone services (UAV services)

Drone services, also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services, is the emerging market for services built around flying robots that can be remote-controlled or flown autonomously using software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems. Commercial drone services are developing UAV services, sometimes called Drones as a Service, to help industries, such as agriculture, construction, search and rescue, package delivery, industrial inspection, insurance and videography, with tasks like collecting imagery and measurements and managing or broadcasting events.

Historically, many UAV applications were developed in the military as spy or reconnaissance vehicles used during wartime. However, the development of this type of aircraft has evolved towards commercial, civil and consumer spaces, including professional videography, surveying, construction, inspection, traffic management and last mile delivery. Other lower-profile uses for drone services include firefighting and police use, as well as other kinds of domestic surveillance.

The stringent requirements for operating drones make it necessary for companies to tap service providers’ expertise, giving the market for Drones as a Service strong growth potential. For example, commercial applications in countries like the United States require the use of licensed pilots, making companies that do not have licensed drone pilots potential customers for this market. Other requirements for operating drones include expertise in geography, model design and capability, the environment, wireless networking and technology and mobile apps and platforms. The Federal Aviation Administration has also been working with industry providers to craft drone-specific mandates that are flexible enough to spur innovation while maintaining public safety and privacy.

Drone service providers are focused on making sure various types of UAVs match customers’ needs, so the skills required may vary in different vertical markets. For example, drones may be equipped with a range of cameras and sensors for capturing still images, video, thermal images and multispectral images or drone-related software for planning flights, flying remotely, analyzing captured data and checking for compliance with drone regulations. Further, drones can vary in size and type such as fixed-wing crafts versus single or multi-rotor drones.

Although the use of commercial drones is gaining popularity, the technology's value will vary widely across industries as use cases develop and grow. To provide better business value, drone service providers will need to focus on the accuracy of data processing and analysis as well as issues related to managing enormous data sets and data governance. They must also navigate business risk aversion related to drones, regulatory red tape and privacy and security concerns.

This was last updated in December 2018

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