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Would drones become a business game changer?

Ramon Murguia Drone

Drones in the news are becoming a frequent subject. However, the industries we constantly read about are more related to military, logistics and distribution, photography and now we are starting to get a lot of consumer electronic products related to drones. What about other industries that are having an impact with this technology and how they might benefit while impacting other companies in the process. since, high costs and technical limitations kept the uses of drones relatively limited until recently. There are plenty of players making predictions about what the industry will sell, be valued and or impact other industries, here are some of the most relevant:

1.- Gartner (technology research) estimates that over 170,000 commercial drones will be sold this 2017, a 58 percent increase since 2016.

2.- Goldman Sachs predicts that businesses and civil government will spend $13 billion on drones between 2016-2020.

3.- Pricewaterhouse Coopers projects that globally, drone solutions have the potential to replace $127 billion in business services and labor costs across multiple industries.

Ramon Murguia Investment Drone

The current use of drones today are related as mentioned with aerial photography specially for journalism and film, express shipping and delivery for companies such as Amazon, gathering information or supplying essentials for disaster management, law enforcement and border control surveillance, thermal sensor for search and rescue operations, building and construction safety inspections, precision crop and agricultural monitoring, unmanned cargo transport and logistics, geographic mapping of inaccessible terrain and locations, storm tracking and forecasting hurricanes and tornadoes. As we can see in the investments in hardware, the Government has been the driver on the technology. However, enterprises now that the technology is becoming cheaper, will start to invest in hardware and will capture the benefits fast.

Farmers will take a huge advantage of drones in agriculture. They will be able to track almost everything important for them, water usage, heat, crop health, soil analysis, to mentioned few benefits. Before the use of drones technology, they would have only be able to do some of those measurements by plane with less frequency due to cost. There are some impacts, planes and pilots will be heavily affected. On the other hand, important companies that are taking actions such as John Deere and Dupont’s agribusiness division that are investing in developing and doing Joint Ventures with other technological companies to become a data-driven suppliers and capture all information possible to control some of the next steps on the industry.

Maintenance and infrastructure development is another important industry. The use of drones to inspect existing infrastructure can be cheaper, faster, and importantly safer. As an example, the New York Power Authority tested using drones to inspect an ice boom. Before the Inspection of one of these ice booms would normally costs $3,500 by helicopter or $3,300 to by boat, but to deploy a drone it cost less than $300 and is much safer, less people and no risk. Now, AT&T is inspecting cell towers, energy companies are using them as well to monitor power lines and they are saving lives, time and cost.

For builders, drones are cheaper to fly and faster than human surveyors, they collect data far more frequently, letting construction workers track a site’s progress with a degree of accuracy previously unknown in the industry. With the right computing tools, builders can turn sensor data into information. Collectively, that intelligence allows construction companies to more efficiently deploy resources around a job site, minimize potential issues, trim costs, and limit delays. Specially when the industry is valued at $8.5 trillion global construction and isn’t exactly known for its efficiency. The U.K. Green Building Council estimates that 15% of materials delivered to construction sites end up in landfills, the result of mismanaged scheduling and purchasing.

Warehousing impact would be much easier if you look at the following video. You would be able to get a sense of the impact that it will have in people, safety, time, accuracy, to mention some of the benefits. Wal-Mart has been testing the use of drones in its warehouses to check and flag missing items. According to the company, drones flying through the warehouse can do a full inventory check in a day, a task that currently takes a month for people to do manually.

Major companies like Amazon and Facebook are investing significantly in the use of drones for delivery and expanding internet access, but for the most part these applications are in the testing phase. We recently covered Domino’s drone delivery plans, which are also very much in research and development for the time being. There are companies like Zipline, which is currently using aerial drones to make medical deliveries in Rwanda, but that represents a minor application compared to what some companies envision. However, these are some of the potential use from other well know industry such as military. How about research, imagine the day that drones will be able to scan your mobile phone to understand profiles of consumers in a mall, stadium or travel and start developing marketing campaigns more personalized and in real time. Lots to think about.

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