Drones or “Un­manned Aerial Ve­hi­cles” (UAV’s) are a tech­nol­ogy that has been on the rise for some time now across the world. They are in­creas­ingly be­ing used for con­sumer pur­poses. Also, video and pho­tog­ra­phy with drones have been a sig­nif­i­cant driver for sales around the globe.

Sim­ply speak­ing, the mar­ket around drones can be split into three parts: – Con­sumer ap­pli­ca­tions – Com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions – Mil­i­taryap­pli­ca­tions

While the In­dian Mil­i­tary has been us­ing drones for quite some time now, we would like to di­rect the fo­cus to­wards Com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions, as there is al­ready much aware­ness about Con­sumer ap­pli­ca­tions.

When it comes to the size of the drone in­dus­try world­wide, the num­bers pro­jected are in the range of US$8.89 bn by the end of 2025 for the global com­mer­cial drones mar­ket, of which 50% will be in the USA, ac­cord­ing to a source ( Trans­parency Mar­ket Re­search ( TMR)). Other sources in­di­cate wildly dif­fer­ent num­bers, in­dica­tive of the un­cer­tainty in this growth mar­ket. There­fore, it is more im­por­tant to look at the

en­ablers of fu­ture drone busi­ness. The fu­ture growth of the com­mer­cial drone mar­ket will be driven by sev­eral fac­tors: – Avail­abil­ity of com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions with drones The de­vel­op­ment of a net­work of drone op­er­a­tors The fu­ture evo­lu­tion of reg­u­la­tion – this is es­pe­cially true for In­dia, where new di­rec­tives have just been put in place. Let’s have a look at each of th­ese fac­tors.

Avail­abil­ity of com­mer­cial drone ap­pli­ca­tions

There are strong use- cases in agri­cul­ture, Smart City ap­pli­ca­tions, and law en­force­ment among oth­ers. How­ever, ap­pli­ca­tions for th­ese have of­ten not yet achieved the level of ma­tu­rity that would be re­quired for com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions. As a re­sult, only a small part of this po­ten­tial mar­ket has been tapped into so far. If we had to guess, we be­lieve it is a mere 5% or less of the full po­ten­tial.

This is closely linked to a slow adap­tion rate of cus­tomers: Many po­ten­tial cus­tomers don’t yet fully un­der­stand which value ser­vices can be de­liv­ered us­ing drones. This leads to a hen- egg prob­lem, wherein de­mand is still low and in turn, the of­fer­ing of ser­vices is nei­ther ma­ture nor is it of­fered across the coun­try.

Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with the sec­ond fac­tor:

Availi­bil­ity of a dis­trib­uted drone op­er­a­tor net­work

Ser­vices uti­liz­ing drones have to be de­liv­ered lo­cally. For In­dia that might mean thou­sands of lo­cal drone op­er­a­tors would be re­quired to de­liver ser­vices. More likely than not, th­ese will be small in­de­pen­dent com­pa­nies, uti­liz­ing mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions. In the morn­ing, it might be the in­spec­tion and doc­u­men­ta­tion of a bridge with high-res­o­lu­tion pic­tures. At noon, there might be a fes­ti­val cer­e­mony, where they op­er­ate drones to pro­vide sur­veil­lance and crowd man­age­ment in­for­ma­tion to the po­lice and in the af­ter­noon, they might do multi-spec­tral data ac­qui­si­tion for a farmer to as­sess crop health. The soft­ware so­lu­tions, spe­cial sen­sor pay­loads etc., will most likely come from dif­fer­ent sys­tem houses. There is cur­rently no com­pany that de­vel­ops drone ap­pli­ca­tions for all use cases.

But an­other fac­tor will most likely be more im­por­tant:

Fu­ture evo­lu­tion of reg­u­la­tion

Drones can raise con­cerns, be it re­gard­ing pri­vacy (who would want to have a drone spy through the win­dow into his bed­room?), but also re­gard­ing safety, e.g. when drones are ir­re­spon­si­bly used next to air­ports and put planes, pas­sen­gers and crews at risk. In ad­di­tion, drones can be used for es­pi­onage or ter­ror­ist at­tacks. So there is a clear need for reg­u­la­tion, which is why the Gov­ern­ment has just re­cently pub­lished a draft doc­u­ment, seek­ing in­puts from the in­dus­try and other stake­hold­ers. As al­ways, in th­ese cases it is a del­i­cate balanc­ing act be­tween safety/se­cu­rity as­pects and the ben­e­fits of us­ing drones, be it for the en­ter­tain­ment of com­mer­cial uses. This is a de­vel­op­ment all coun­tries are deal­ing with, and it will take a while un­til fi­nal reg­u­la­tions are re­leased, and rou­tines are es­tab­lished.

The Hack­adrone

In­dia’s first UAV hackathon, Hack­adrone was an at­tempt to bring out the in­no­va­tive ideas in the de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity on an ap­pro­pri­ate plat­form.

Hack­adrone re­ceived an out­stand­ing re­sponse, with more than 4,500 reg­is­tra­tions and 617 pro­pos­als. Seven teams that in­cluded col­lege stu­dents, star­tups, tech­nol­ogy pro­fes­sion­als, and de­vel­op­ers from across In­dia were se­lected for the fi­nal round held at the Learn­ing and De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter at Cyi­entin Hyderabad, from Fe­bru­ary 5–9, 2018.

The win­ning solution of Hack­adrone 2018 was de­vel­oped by Team Drone Force that com­prised Prag­nya Kon­drakunta, Fa­tima, and Swapna Bhan­dari from Hyderabad, who de­vel­oped a pro­to­type to pro­mote women’s se­cu­rity. Their solution iden­ti­fies when a vic­tim needs help by send­ing real-time alerts to a con­trol sta­tion and reg­is­tered guardians. The con­trol sta­tion im­me­di­ately de­ploys a UAV to the vic­tim’s lo­ca­tion, en­sur­ing im­me­di­ate, pre­ven­tive ac­tion.

Co-au­thored by DR. JAN RADTKE (VP & Head, New Busi­ness Ac­cel­er­a­tor, Cyient) and DINAKAR DEVIREDDY (As­sis­tant Gen­eral Man­ager, New Busi­ness Ac­cel­er­a­tor, Cyient)

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