The annual Drone Industry Barometer by Drone Industry Insights is more international than ever. This year, the survey received 891 responses (an increase of 31% from 2021), coming from 81 countries (vs 64 last year). In terms of participation, the top countries were once again some of the top commercial drone markets in the world (i.e. Japan, USA, Germany, South Korea, Australia, and Switzerland among others). And as far as company size is concerned, a majority of respondents (48%) were companies of 10 employees or less, followed by companies with a size between 11-50 employees (24%). Nevertheless, there were also 30 responses from companies of more than 10,000 employees, meaning that the survey reaches everyone from the smallest startups to the largest drone corporations. The high number of big companies that participated also suggests that there may be an increase in drone adoption at large companies, which is a good sign to complement the large number of startups in the commercial drone space.
Reasons to Use Drones and Top Methods
In previous years, the barometer only asked drone companies if a particular reason was “not important”, “important” or “very important”, but this year it added two more options to turn the question into more of a scale. This yielded more interesting data and a less direct outcome. On the one hand, “improving work safety” received the highest amount of “very important” votes, followed by “saving time”. On the other hand, “saving time” also received the most “not important” votes, so this year’s results are a lot more heterogenous and the final conclusion about the ”best reason to adopt drones” depends more on a particular use case, where different factors may be the leading role.
Drone companies were also asked about their most-used application methods. The most common method from all companies surveyed this year was “Photography & Filming”. This was the case for both Business Internal Services (BIS) that use drones within their company as well as Drone Service Providers (DSPs) that provide their services externally. However, BIS were clearly more focused on this method, while DSPs made almost the same amount of mapping & surveying as they did photography. Inspections remain one of the top application methods, however they are clearly more used as an external service (by DSPs) rather than an internal activity (by BIS).
Market Priorities and Key Market-Drivers
In the past years, one interesting development has been the increased importance of marketing & sales for drone companies around the world. Since 2018, the number of companies considering this a top priority has tripled, while the importance of product development (both hardware and software) has been cut in half. In other words, four years ago more companies placed their focus on hardware and software development, but now it is marketing & sales that have become the primary focus.
The second-highest priority according to the 2022 Barometer is staff development, which correlates well with the increasing amount of drone jobs available in the commercial drone market and the increased level of effort required in order to find the right talent for the right roles.
Regarding market-driving factors outside of drone companies’ control, it is once again clear that regulatory bodies and frameworks have become the key focus for everyone who makes, sells, uses, or is in any way involved with commercial drones. Makers need guidelines (e.g. type certification or other design rules) and operators eagerly await frameworks that will allow them to truly scale unique and profitable operations (e.g. BVLOS or night operations). So regulatory bodies will remain in the spotlight for the development of the industry, and they will largely decide the pace at which it continues to grow.
Looking to 2023
In conclusion, despite heavy challenges in the past few years, the global drone market has continued to push forward. Although the amount of drone companies who found new use cases during the pandemic went down between 2020 and 2022, the aftereffects of lockdowns and restrictions have decreased even more substantially. Based on our last three barometers, the amount of production and operation shutdowns also decreased dramatically year by year. Therefore, the overall lesson is that the companies who managed to adjust during the pandemic are finally returning to almost-normal operations.
All of this is an encouraging sign for drone companies, and another promising sign is the increased attention that the industry has received (e.g. for drone deliveries and air mobility). Given the ever-increasing impact of drone regulation as a market-driver and the potential boost in activity that upcoming drone regulations should bring, the next year is likely to be an exciting one for the global commercial drone market.