The drone service market was estimated to be around 30 billion US dollars, with an estimated annual growth rate of around 7 to 8 percent until 2030. In order to meet these astounding numbers the industry needs to scale up operations. That also means to scale up beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) operations, because that’s where the business is. Think of inspection services, surveillance, delivery, et cetera. But before we get to the stage of scalable operations there are a number of challenges - technical, operational, regulatory, standards, financial, political - that must be adressed.
In the December 14th Industry Update, moderator Munish Khurana, discussed some of the key drivers that are shaping these business models of the evolving drone Services Market. Khurana focussed mainly on the mobile network operators and the role the Telecom industry can play in helping the industry address a lot of those challenges and to help understand the business drivers that will create a revenue model in the future.
He moderated a discussion between Barbara Pareglio, Senior Director, IoT Technology at GSMA, Kapil Mittal, Co-founder and CEO at Ericsson Drone Mobility, Jan Petterson, Head of Advanced IOT & Drones at Swedish telecom provider Telia and Hand de Glint, Business and Product Development Manager at Dutch telecom provider KPN.
Pareglio stated that the two main challenges for the wide adoption of commercial use cases of UAVs are “Regulation readiness and ecosystem readiness. While the network support of drones and public acceptance are less challenging.”
Asked about the opportunities of monetizing parts of the value chain, Kapil Mittal answered he already sees examples of assets telecom providers such as KPN and Telia can monetize. “One of those examples is that they can provide - with minimum investments - real-time information to the drone ecosystem for mitigating the ground risk. The other example is they can provide drone sims.” He is supported by Jan Petterson, who explains that Telia has been providing data about where people are in Sweden for some time, so that drone operators who, for example, want to carry out BVLOS missions know where people are on the ground and can act accordingly.
But the drone ecosystem is not yet very mature. So the number of people who really understand this is still small. That is a challenge at the moment in Sweden.
Han de Glint agrees. “For that reason, we are currently looking for our customers a little further away from the drone industry. Consider municipalities and regulators that are also interested in our data. We also have many mobile assets in the country where we provide very reliable internet. What you see is that UTM service providers need sensors and the connectivity in many spaces around the region. So we are validating that opportunity as well.”
Khurana asked Barbara Pareglio how the GSMA thinks it can accelerate. “That's quite difficult,” she admitted. “A lot depends on the local situation. We mainly talk at an umbrella level with, for example, the EASA, FAA and ICAO, but ultimately local governments determine what is possible and permitted. I would therefore like to see more tests carried out that are closer to reality than what we have seen so far. Because that ultimately determines the quality of the data that we can supply.”