San Francisco, CA January 5, 2017
Company

In his 2016 AUVSI keynote, John Chambers predicted that 2017 would be an inflection point for the commercial drone industry. We couldn’t agree more. Trends in technology, the business atmosphere and regulatory environment are all coming together to make this the year when large enterprises take deployments to scale across entire business units, conducting thousands of commercial drone flights.

Many industries have been testing commercial drone technology, and a few have identified use cases that create significant value. These are the ones that will trigger the inflection point this year. In this blog post, I’ve predicted one industry that will see its leading enterprises transformed by commercial drones in 2017, two that will be transformed by wide-scale SMB adoption of commercial drones in 2017, two that will make progress and be in position for enterprise transformation in 2018, and one that will take longer to develop.

One of the driving factors here is the commercial drone technology itself. Drones are now easy to use, and with advancements in integration and automation, they have become powerful tools for the enterprise. Airware CTO Buddy Michini’s predictions for continued advancements in these areas can be read in his blog post.

But just because a technology is available does not mean enterprises will adopt it. Another enabling factor is the availability of industry-specific complete solutions. Without the burden of cobbling together disparate products, enterprises have a direct path to test and deploy new technology.

These advances in technology solutions have enabled another trend driving commercial drone adoption: drones no longer require specialist operators. Autonomy and ease of operation have made it possible to train any member of an existing workforce to use drones. This makes it far easier and more cost-effective for an enterprise to roll out a commercial drone solution to an entire business unit. Airware GM Don Weigel explains why 2017 will be the year of the drone-powered workforce in this blog post.

2016 will forever be known in the commercial drone industry as the year that one of the biggest barriers to commercial drone adoption was lifted. The FAA released Part 107, a set of rules that allow any company in America to use commercial drones according to specific criteria. This resulted in newfound confidence in businesses that had previously been hesitant to test commercial drones in the absence of final rules by the FAA. This testing enabled by Part 107 in 2016 will turn to scaled use in 2017. Airware regulatory leads Dave Buhrman and Jesse Kallman explain the further developments in commercial drone regulations that we expect to see in 2017 in this blog post.

These trends have been developing for years, but they are now reaching a collective crescendo that makes 2017 the most exciting year yet.

For those of us in the commercial drone industry, this is crunch time.

For the industries facing transformation by this technology, this is an opportunity to launch into the future.

Jonathan Downey

Jonathan is the Founder and CEO of Airware. He began working on small UAS while studying electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After graduation, he joined Boeing to work on the development of the A160T Hummingbird, a fully autonomous 6,000-pound helicopter, which broke the world record for longest endurance helicopter flight. Jonathan founded Airware in 2011 due to both personal and industry frustrations with the inflexible and costly “black box” autopilots on the market. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys flying manned aircraft. He is a commercial multi-engine rated pilot with experience flying small singles up through twin turboprops.

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