According to accounting and consulting firm Deloitte, the commercial use of drones is likely to take off in 2015. By the end of the year the firm expects 1 million commercial drones in the skies, creating additional revenues of between £125 million and £250 million.
In its recently released TMT Predictions, the Big Four consultancy looks at the key trends and developments in the media and technology industry. One of the trends earmarked is the use of drones, an innovation that initially served the defence industry, but is now flying its way over to other places of the business landscape. With 700,000 drones already buzzing around and with a further 300,000 ordered globally for 2015, Paul Lee, head of technology, media, and telecommunications at Deloitte UK, expects drones will increasingly become a more common feature intersecting daily life.
The place for drones is not yet clear however. In a recent article on Consultancy.uk based on PwC’s Anuj Kharbanda, the possibility of drones taking on delivery services was floated, Lee however commenting that on the ground the numbers don’t yet stack up. “We [Deloitte] don’t think this will be for deliveries to our homes – the cost per trip at an average £6 is prohibitively high,” Lee says.
Lee projects that drones will likely, at this stage of the technology, find a place in aerial observation and recognisance for businesses. “Drones have been prominent in news bulletins recently, with attention focused on consumer usage. But the bigger opportunity may be for businesses,” Lee sees. Especially businesses that need to make assessments of hard to reach locations could benefit from unmanned reconnaissance, building contractors assessing maintenance. “Drones are being used today to inspect the outsides of off-shore wind turbines for example. It’s quicker and cheaper to send a drone up to shoot video footage, than to have someone scale up with ropes and harnesses.”
While revenues within the industry in 2015 are expected to reach between £125 million and £250 million, based on predictions of drones costing £125 or more, the effect of drones are expected to hoover into and expand the £600 million aerial viewing market, which is currently dominated by helicopters. While Deloitte finds that as it stands drones are not cost effective enough to replace traditional delivery models, large corporates with a stake in delivery, are experimenting with drone technology.
Amazon and DHL are both running R&D programmes to explore the possibility of drones, named Prime Air and Parcelcopter respectively. DHL is experimenting with delivery services especially for urgent packages, having gained regulatory agreement for experimentation with the technology limited to the German North Sea island of Juist. Amazon’s Prime Air programme hopes to take off in 2015 and is awaiting regulatory clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). “Regulators are currently working out how best to incorporate drones into existing air space,” Lee explains, reflecting that there are still dangers, “an irresponsibly piloted semi-professional two kilogram drone, whose battery expires mid-flight above a crowd, might cause injury. But a drone used for search and rescue missions could save lives.”