How AI is Shaping the Global Drone Market and Industry
Tue, April 20, 2021

How AI is Shaping the Global Drone Market and Industry

Drones were originally designed as safer and cheaper alternatives to manned military aircraft. / Photo by: Alex Yuzhakov via Shutterstock


Recently, the second-generation Skydio 2, a technology that can think for themselves while carrying out their missions, was introduced to the public. This artificial-driven robot can plot a course around buildings and through forests as it tracks its designated target. According to CNET, an American media website that publishes content on technology and consumer electronics globally, Skydio 2 shoots video with a 20mm-equivalent camera stabilized with a three-axis gimbal.

Aside from having a six fisheye camera eyes intended for navigation only, the drone has an AI scene-processing software that feeds data into the Nvidia Tegra X2 processor. What’s great about this device is that it doesn’t need any human intervention. It will follow you around and choose the best angle from which to film all the amazing things you need to do. 

Skydio 2, released by software company Skydio, is just one of the many drones in the global market. It competes with drone giants like DJI, whose Inspire, Phantom, Mavic, and Spark lines range from casual selfie drones to high-end cinematography machines. What makes Skydio 2 different from the rest is its tracking and self-piloting AI. 

"It's great to see more companies entering the industry and offering unique products. Automated features like this are incredibly popular with our customers and DJI has been using items like ActiveTrack and APAS [Advanced Pilot Assistance System] for several years now,” DJI said in a statement. 

One thing is for sure: AI is paving the way for a new generation of self-flying drones.

The Global Drone Market and Industry

Most of the time, when we hear about drones, we immediately think of expensive military aircraft or small consumer toys. However, it can be used in different industries. Recent reports show that the future of drones will be shaped by practical commercial applications. 

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), were originally designed as safer and cheaper alternatives to manned military aircraft. Today, these devices are not only used for military purposes but also as consumer toys and purveyors of commercial operational efficiency. A 2016 report by Goldman Sachs, an American multinational investment bank and financial services company, projected that drone technology will reach a total market size of $100 billion between 2016 and 2020. 

It was also reported that the fastest growth opportunity on drone technologies is the commercial business, which is projected to reach $13 billion between 2016 and 2020. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the total market size would be associated with military activities. According to Toptal, an online site that enables start-ups, businesses, and organizations to hire freelancers from a growing network of the top talent in the world, professional services network PWC reported that commercial applications of drones have a total addressable market of $127 billion across the world. These devices are also expected to become a part of the daily operations of various industries, including journalism, agriculture, and insurance.

Most of the value that will be generated in the drone technologies will not come from manufacturing and the hardware itself. This is because drone hardware has become more affordable to produce and purchase throughout the years. Instead, services that operate and manage drones for companies would be the number one factor. 

By 2050, the revenues of drone technologies are expected split into seven major factors, including value-added services (48 percent), piloting and operations (25 percent), maintenance and insurance (13 percent), assembly and production (8 percent), and design, sales, and marketing (6 percent). 

AI is Shaping the Drone Industry

Christian Sanz, CEO of Skycatch, a company that builds technology to autonomously capture, process, and analyze 3D drone data, states that one of the greatest benefits of AI drones is that they gather real-time data that once took hours, days, and weeks to get. 

“If you have thousands of surveillance cameras, you typically don't have the staff to watch them in real-time. You used them only to go back in history. With AI you can change that; you can simulate a human looking at the video for all thousands (or millions) of cameras,” Sanz said.

According to Forbes, a global media company focusing on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and lifestyle, AI drones can look over complex physical structures and analyze captured data. For instance, these devices can capture the info quickly from AT&T cell towers, wind turbines, and general infrastructure inspections without having someone deployed in those places. 

Aside from that, AI drones are a great help in the construction sector because they can automate the process of understanding and predicting the daily changes in a construction site by detecting all objects and activities there with the help of AI-trained models. Aside from giving customers data to plan projects better, these devices can help in allocating resources more efficiently. This includes creating a daily deployment schedule for machinery and people and optimizing routes for construction equipment traveling across the site.

“The use of drones combined with trained models to inspect the physical world from the air and from multiple angles is groundbreaking,” Sanz said. 

AI drones are just some of the physical evidence of how AI can be used to perform tasks more efficiently than humans. This allows people to work in stressful environments every day while increasing productivity and revenues. Drone technologies will surely enter more and more industries in the coming years. 


AI drones can detect all objects and activities in the construction site with the help of AI-trained models. / Photo by:Dmitry Kalinovsky via Shutterstock