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New Market Map from Drone Industry Insights Shows How Far the Drone Industry Has Come

BY Zacc Dukowitz
29 January 2018

Drone Industry Insights just released a map of the drone market environment, and it is a doozy.

Check this thing out:

droneii_drone environment map

Want to peruse the map in detail? Download the full pdf from DroneII here.

Of course, including this image is kind of ridiculous, since there’s no way you can actually decipher all the companies at this scale.

But we wanted to put it in here because this picture serves to illustrate just how incredibly big the landscape has become here in the drone industry.

To the same point, when we recently updated our list of top companies to watch in the drone industry we were faced with some hard decisions, and ended up selecting more companies than ever before, bumping the size of the list up to 100 total by the time we were done sifting through all of the companies out there.

The list of companies included in DroneII’s map is bigger than our list. Ten times bigger, actually. That’s right—DroneII’s map includes 1,000 companies in the drone industry, and as such provides a lot of information on companies on the rise, as well as insights into different sectors and niches throughout the drone industry.

Let’s take a closer look.

What Can We Learn from the Map?

To start out, one of the general observations we can make when reviewing DroneII’s market map is that it looks like we’re finally at a point in the drone industry where we can begin focusing on applications and the shape of the industry—that is, although the industry still has a lot of growing to do, it’s reached a certain point of maturity and stabilization.

droneii-drone environment map
Image source

The map is not totally comprehensive, and it’s not supposed to be. The focus is on the diversity and reach of this drone ecosystem.

– Drone Industry Insights

One of the other things this map does is provide a kind of snapshot of the entire drone industry at this moment in time, with the most active and relevant players in various categories and sub-categories. This in turn helps us look forward to what might happen in 2018, and where we might expect to see growth and expansion in the industry.

Along similar lines, the map can help us learn not just about new companies, but also about new niches and sectors of the drone industry that might otherwise fly under the radar. (There are so many opportunities for puns in this soaring industry, aren’t there? 🙂 ).

DroneII reports that they’ve been contacted numerous times by people who have used an earlier iteration of their market environment map to locate strategic partners, and that the information has thereby contributed in its own way to investment and growth within the drone industry.

But what categories does the map focus on, and what do those categories reveal about the industry?

Let’s take a look at the platform and software categories, to get a sense for the kinds of insights we might be able to glean.

Platform Insights

As the map reveals, a great deal of consolidation and change in focus is happening when it comes to drone platforms.

3DR, PrecisionHawk, and Agribotix have moved away from creating drones and are now mostly or wholly focused on software, and much of this has been triggered by the market superiority of DJI (3DR officially noted that competitive pricing was a key reason for the failure of their Solo drone.)

Here are some more insights related to drone platforms and hardware that can be gleaned from DroneII’s map:

  • Things are trending toward strong specialization for niche applications. Agriculture, delivery systems, and safety/security are some of the bigger industries seeing this trend. For example, check out the three niche drones Yuneec launched at CES this year (a fixed wing, a racing drone, and a versatile drone for industrial applications), or the new prosumer drones Parrot has been releasing for specific applications.
  • Flying taxis have arrived on the drone scene in a big way. Big companies seem to be grabbing the best pieces before it’s too late, which is something you can see with developments like Terrafugia being acquired by Volvo-owner Geely, and Aurora Flight Sciences being acquired by Boeing.
  • In the consumer/recreational market, drone racing and selfie drones continue to define the space. Many have had to fight to stay relevant here and compete against DJI (at least in the selfie/videography sector of the consumer market).

Software Insights

Drone software is getting robust, y’all. In fact, in a recent project where engineers planted, tended, and harvested the first crop ever with robots (i.e., no human hand directly touched any part of the process), the software used for all of the robotics—the tractors and other machines needed—was repurposed from drone software.

A.I. also continues to grow in strength and value, and is already helping to automate drone processes related to data collection and analysis. We can only expect to see more of this kind of growth in 2018.

Here are some more software insights we can gather from DroneII’s map:

  • A number of strategic software partnerships have been formed to provide end-to-end solutions, because many organizations have recognized that providing one piece of the puzzle is not enough. We’re also seeing hardware-software partnerships, such as the one between DJI and 3DR—a year ago this partnership would have been inconceivable, but now, with 3DR’s SiteScan taking a big portion of the drone software pie, it makes sense.
  • Things are becoming more open. APIs and approaches that allow drone data to be integrated into existing processes are quickly become a requirement. Opening channels (API) and tools that integrate drones into established processes came on in a big way in 2017, and that development will become even more distinct in 2018.
  • Data is huge. Aerial data providers like Airbus Aerial and Intel Insights have taken the concept of aerial data to a new level, and we can expect to see new innovations related to how to harness this data for actionable insights coming in the near future.
  • Unmanned Traffic Management systems (UTMs) are helping to push forward the fast-tracking of processes and partnerships, both at national and international levels, with Skyward and Airmap becoming the first organization to use LAANC to begin providing instant airspace authorizations.

When we look at this map, it’s clear not only that the drone industry has come a long way in a short period of time, but that 2018 is going to be an amazing year for drones.

If DroneII’s map is any indication, it looks like we’re going to see even more big companies from other sectors enter the market, more partnerships form between existing companies as well as new ones, higher adoption of drone use, and a rapid development of automation and adoption.

What a wild ride—we can only imagine what this map is going to look like in 2019.

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