There were times when we thought the immediate business opportunity for drones in professional mapping was to organize & charge for conferences and trade shows. We're still in the rabid marketing cycle for drones and that's actually typical as per Gartner's often referenced technology "hype cycle" updated in August 2016 below - drones are near the apex.
But the times are changing. Drones are proving their cost-effectiveness and delivering solid answers and the early adopters & their vendors are in toe filling those conferences with credible use cases. Some of the 1) dirty, 2) dumb, and 3) dangerous jobs are getting done by drones (provided the batteries don't run out or pose/position isn't lost ;-). The truth is, drone technology is rapidly getting better. And the Chinese robotics community, lead by DJI are blurring the lines between price & performance.
There's a lot of talk about "consumer" drones not being suitable for demanding "professional" mapping applications. And there's some truth to that related to advanced sensors, positioning tech, battery life, etc. But it's also true that you can pay big bucks for a "Pro Drone" that has lesser technology than a DJI bought from Amazon. There's some good research and comparisons by Skylogic Research here. According to their analysis, half of all drones purchased ($1000-$1999 & $2000-$3,999) are "prosumer," good enough business uses.
Now the confession, we're heading off to Commercial Drone Expo this week. It's a well organized, end-user focused event and great place to glean what's & who's moving in the needle in drone mapping industry. Earlier this year we were intrigued by the acquisition of Ascending Technologies by Intel, Aerialtronics pilot project with IBM Watson IoT platform, and the sale of Trimble''s GateWing Drones to Del-Air Tech. We're excited to get updates on these and less exciting but incredibly important items like airspace regulations.
It's a truly amazing time as big & small companies fight for their slice of the various parts of the drone pie.