Bringing a new technology into an enterprise is challenging. Commercial drones hold promise for a multitude of industries, but some will realize the benefits of the technology sooner than others.
In 2017, we predict that one industry will see its leading enterprises move to full-scale deployments of commercial drones: Insurance. Leading insurance enterprises spent 2016 conducting some of the largest coordinated tests of commercial drones in the world. The use cases for commercial drone technology in insurance have been identified and have been proven to provide significant value for customers, creating a competitive edge for adopters. The insurance industry is known for quick adoption of new technologies. It’s also highly competitive, so when a competitive edge is achieved by one enterprise, others are soon to follow.
Two more industries are close behind: Mining and Construction. The value of commercial drones has already been proven in smaller-scale deployments in these industries. In both, nearly every major enterprise is actively testing the technology. And consolidation in the commercial drone industry is accelerating, making it easier for enterprises to deploy with confidence. We predict that at least one major Mining enterprise will begin a large-scale commercial drone deployment by the end of 2017, and that two major Construction companies will do so.
While the transformation of the industries above will driven by enterprise deployments, there are two other industries that will see a different type of transformation in 2017. Both the Agriculture and Aggregates industries have received significant attention from commercial drone startups. But SMBs in these industries are adopting this technology much quicker than large enterprises. The transformation here will not be top-down as it is in Insurance, Mining and Construction, but much more fragmented.
Another industry that has received a lot of attention from commercial drone startups is Telecom. There are many reasons to be optimistic about commercial drones for Telecom. Inspections of tall structures were specifically accounted for in Part 107, opening the door for operations. OSHA has rated telecom tower inspection as one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, making the prospect of using commercial drones a desirable one from a safety standpoint, in addition to the financial advantages. But the Telecom industry has been slow to test commercial drone solutions, and thus far has been content to pay for one-off drone flights for inspections. This makes it difficult for startups to create a viable business servicing the vertical. We predict the Telecom industry will continue to pay for one-off flights in 2017, but that an enterprise will emerge from the pack and move towards a complete solution deployment.
Many other industries have been testing commercial drone technology, but these are the ones facing transformation this year.