Rise of the drones builds large profitable ecosystem

4 million grand public and professional drones were sold in 2015, and fast growth is likely to continue. The civilian drones sector’s world-leading company, China’s DJI, embodies such a trend. “From a single small office in 2006, DJI has become a global workforce of over 3,000 employees,” that represents two thirds of the civilian drones’ global market with USD 1 billion in sales revenue in 2015. Founded in 1994, Paris-based French company Parrot ranked second to DJI with a total workforce of 900 and a EUR 326 million turnover in 2015.

According to a PwC report, the whole market of drones-related services could reach USD 127 billion by 2020, with infrastructures and agriculture making almost half of it with USD 45.2 billion and USD 32.4 billion respectively. Because a civilian drone is like a “flying personal computer (PC),” manufacturers like Thales, components suppliers like Infineon Technologies and STMicroelectronics, cloud computing providers like AWS, data analytics suppliers like IBM, SAP and SAS will benefit a lot from the drones sector’s future growth.

Companies specialized in apps and augmented reality like Flyver and Oculus VR will also take a growing part in the drones’ technological revolution, with a view to making the drones’ flight easier and immersing the user into piloting the drone for more accuracy and great entertainment. Also, photographic and video data gathered using drones’ cameras should be stored in large-capacity servers and compiled into a virtual reality world looking just like our day-to-day world, this way opening futurist science-fiction-like perspectives.

Sales of professional drones developed slower than grand public’s but proved very effective in achieving a large range of tasks like electric lines’ inspection, pipelines’ surveillance, aerial photography, cartography, topography and so on. Due to a higher price tag per unit, professional drones could likely bring in more cash to manufacturers in the longer term. Lawyers should also earn much because of regulation, insurance and privacy legal questions which will multiply, at least in order to avoid incidents with airliners, determine responsibility in case of damage and loss, identify pilots whom States fear some of them could be terrorists someday.