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InterDrone 2016: Professionalization and business of drone industry

September 16, 2016

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InterDrone concluded their 2nd annual trade show and conference in Las Vegas. The differences between the 2015 event and this one reflect the rapid changes in the industry and can be seen as a predictor for the next few years.

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In 2015, it was all about the fun of flying and where you could get a drone, outfit it with cameras and accessories, and go fly. Three makers (Shenzhen DJI Innovations, 3D Robotics (3DR), and Yuneec) had the largest booths and retail resellers, carrying case makers, camera sellers, GoPro, and other accessory makers all had booths. DJI, 3DR and Yuneec had all received massive scale-up fundings during the year.

2016 was all about professionals doing their business with drones.

  • The head of the FAA gave the keynote address
  • The crowd of 4,000 was 1/3 larger than 2015
  • The speakers list and panels were a serious step up from 2015 and included:Commercial uses in surveying, agriculture, big payload movement
    • Service-providing instead of selling
    • Uses for first responders
    • All forms of filming, mapping and photography
  • Multiple booths for hoods and FPV (first-person-view) headsets to be able to better see what the onboard camera is seeing
  • Instead of DJI and GoPro being the dominant players, Parrot and Yuneec held significant presences with their commercial focus

parrot-slam-dunk-kit_350_115_80Parrot, the French provider of the original AR. drone that premiered their quadcopter at Sharper Image stores and now sells hundreds of thousands of various sized single-wing and quad-style drones worldwide, was there with their SLAM Dunk autonomous navigation and obstacle avoidance kit for developers.

parrot-disco-fpv_350_146_80In time for the Christmas season, but not seen at the InterDrone show, is Parrot’s new DISCO FPV smart flying wing with what they call “cockpit glasses,” a headset to see what the onboard camera is seeing. Very slick!

Parrot has decided, as a corporate policy, that the commercial uses of drones should be a big contributor to Parrot’s income stream and they’ve acquired and invented to make that happen. They’ve invested in senseFly, Pix4D, MicaSense and Airinov – all companies providing drones for professional use. I interviewed Parrot’s founder, chairman and CEO Henri Seydoux last year who said:

“We are moving forward with our external growth policy initiated in 2011 and focusing on new products with high-potential, outstanding and complementary technological expertise, applications for commercial and retail customer segments, strong operational and financial synergies. Parrot intends to meet the needs of professionals moving into the civil drone age and firmly believes in the commercial potential of this market, (on which the Parrot AR.Drone has already enabled us to gain global recognition) and I am very pleased that we can also serve the commercial drone market as well.”

“Agriculture is one of the fastest-growing market segments for unmanned aircraft commercial applications. The sensors required to capture accurate data are a critical part of the solution, and [our recent acquisition of MicaSense and Airinov] brings this technology to the table.”

Yuneec, with the biggest booth at the show, is copying the success that DJI has had providing low-cost professional-grade drones for upgrading and resale through a distributor an international integrator and rebranding network, is making inroads into what was initially a DJI-dominated industry.

BOTTOM LINE: The commercial drone industry is maturing similar to the way industrial robots matured: a few major manufacturers providing their drones to thousands of integrators, resellers and value-added service providers which extend the sales reach of the manufacturers. Most of the recent research reports on the industry show CAGR rates ranging from 16% to over 40% for commercial drones and 9% to 15% for military/defense drones.

Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series... read more


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