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July 9, 2018

Drone Data Ecosystem Growing Fast, Report Says

Alex Woodie

(SizeSquare/Shutterstock)

The ecosystem that’s emerged around the collection and analysis of data from drones is growing very quickly, according to a new report issued by DroneDeploy, one of the companies operating in the space.

According to DroneDeploy‘s “2018 Commercial Drone Industry Trends” report, more than 2,000 developers have signed up with the company to offer applications through its App Market, an online marketplace for drone-related software offered by companies such as Esri, Procore, and John Deere. Only about 80 apps are on offer from the App Market today, but the number is growing quickly.

So are app downloads. According to DroneDeploy, more than 120,000 applications have been downloaded from the App Market, and in the past 12 months there has been a 445% increase in downloads. This has corresponded with a general surge in drone usage during the same time.

Many of the apps in the App Market leverage technologies like computer vision, AI, and machine learning to process the image and sensor data collected by drones, DroneDeploy says.

“These technologies help companies reduce error by consistently producing highly-accurate analyses in record time, and largely automate complex workflows,” the company says. “As drone software and hardware continues to advance, we expect these workflows to become totally [autonomous] in the not-to-distant future.”

Drone use is growing fastest in construction (image courtesy DroneDeploy)

For example, Agremo develops software designed to help farmers get better insights about their crops from drone data. According to Drone Deploy, machine learning technology in Agremo’s application helped farmers count nearly 440 million individual plants last year.

The drone data ecosystem spans a variety of types of companies, from drone providers like DJI and Yuneec to Esri, which develops the powerful ArcGIS mapping software. It also includes Drone Deploy, which develops software that automates the generation of two-dimensional maps and three-dimensional models from geo-tagged drone data.

We’re even seeing the creation of “drone on demand” outfits, such as Drone Base, as well as full-service drone integration offerings from the likes of SoftBank, Accenture, and CNH Global, the company says in its report.

Dozens of industries use drones, but the fastest growing commercial adopters of aerial data come from the construction, agriculture, and mining industries, Drone Deploy says. Construction is currently the fastest growing sector, having grown 239% in the last year, the company says.

The number of commercial drones licensed with the FAA grew to 110,000 last year, a 150% increase from 2016, says DroneDeploy. The company estimates there will be more than 600,000 drones in place by 2022.

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