We just released the results of our third annual drone industry benchmark survey and it’s a kicker.
The 2018 Drone Market Sector Reportexamines worldwide drone sales, service providers, business and public agency users, and software services. This independent research, which is sponsored byDJI,DroneDeploy,DroneInsurance.com, andTrimble, finds a growing demand for businesses to use drone-acquired data in their day-to-day operations as well as other fresh insights on major drone industry segments.
Our online market survey garnered over 2,500 respondents representing over 60 industries worldwide. Our analysis yields 10 key insights that summarize the current state of the industry, plus detailed analysis of drone adoption by businesses and enterprises.
The 107-page report presents the results and analyses from each survey question. It’s organized to match our survey, with four sections that correspond to the four major segments of the drone industry:
Drone aircraft and payloads purchased
Service providers that offer drone-based imaging or sensing services for outside hire or sale
Businesses and public agencies with drone programs
Software apps or online services for drone operations and imaging
The report features more than 60 helpful figures and tables and offering insight and analysis on:
Who’s buying what types of drones from which makers at what prices and for what uses.
How large the drone-based service providers are, and how they position themselves to their target industries.
Who the business users of drone-based projects are, and which industries have traction.
How much service providers, business users, and public agencies are using flight management, mission planning, and image processing software for drone-based projects.
Among the more interesting findings are that commercial drone fleet sizes are smaller than most people think. If you believe the hyperbole, there are hundreds of thousands of drones in the airspace at the same time, but the survey finds that the average commercial user has just two drones that are only flying two projects a month and most of those flights consume less than flight three hours.
There are many other insights in the report, but these three are especially worth highlighting:
Professional use of drones is growing. We find that almost three-quarters of all drones weighing over 250 grams are purchased for professional purposes—either governmental or business. This is up from last year.
DJI continues to dominate the market and has made gains this year in every category from drone aircraft at all price ranges, to add-on payloads, to software. Survey data shows DJI is still the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 74% global market share in sales across all price points.
Most businesses and public agencies are new to drones, have small programs, and perform their own services. The survey finds that nearly three-quarters of businesses or public agencies have only had a drone program in place for two or fewer years.
Long ago, it was hard to do computer vision -- like PhD hard. Then, about ten years ago, it started to get easier with the OpenCV libraries, which did most of the hard work for you. But even that needed you to program and build a toolchain and it really only ran well on beefy PCs. But about two years ago, a series of small, cheap computer vision modules came out with camera and processor combined, making it possible to do advanced computer vision at the same cost and format of an Arduino.
That include Jevois and PixyCam, but my favorite of them is OpenMV, which combines built-in MicroPython (super easy to program) with a powerful and easy to use IDE and a number of plug-in boards that allowe it to control everything from motors and servos to screens and WiFi, with no additional computer needed. As an example of how easy it is to use, over at our sister site, DIY Robocars, we show how to put together a full computer vision racing car using OpenMV for less than $100.
Now OpenMV is getting even better, with a new processor with twice the speed and memory, along with interchangeable camera modules that allow you to use a global shutter sensor (best for moving robots like drones and cars) and thermal vision, with the FLIR Lepton module. And now it's cheaper, too, starting at $49!
It's popular with the DIY Drones community too, and you can see examples of it being used for indoor positioning and object tracking here and here.
You can back it on Kickstarter here. Unlike many other Kickstarter projects, which are new products from new teams, this is a mature product from a team that has made and shipped thousands of the previous version and the Kickstarter is just to allow them to purchase components at volume to keep the price down. I've been using an early production version of the OpenMV H7 for a few months already, and I can confirm that it works great.
In the middle of the summer we had a chance to participate in an expedition with the aim to locate a missing WWII P-38 aircraft from famous Lost Squadron. Full story was covered by lot of news and publications, so we will not duplicate it here, you can follow links below.
In general they worked well, but there were some small issues…
It was not too cold in the middle of Greenland’s summer even on the ice cap. Our camp was deployed at an altitude of around 700m above sea level, and often it was quite warm during daytime (except 3 days out of the 8 when we had a snow storm :-)) and below freezing during the “night”.
We were team of brave guys and were not worried about the thermometer readings, it did not matter for us as much as it did for our equipment…
During daytime the temperature was warm enough so that it was sufficient to wear thermal underwear and a membrane of second layer. I think that the temperature was close to +10-15 Celsius. At night (when sun was close to the horizon level but not quite below it) ice formed on the floors of our tents and we had to wear 3 layers including gloves, balaclavas etc.
Standard recommendation for using drones in such conditions is “keep your batteries in a warm place”. Ok, but we didn’t have a warm place on the ice cap. Jim Salazar - our expedition lead and a real hero, one time took 2 sets of M600 batteries to his sleeping bag for the night, but it was not very effective. Forgot to ask him how was the night…
Next time we will use something like Peli cases with integrated electrical heaters and good internal insulation to quickly warm up the batteries before start and to keep them warm - but this year we had to fly with a constant “Battery temperature is low” warnings. It was nice to be able to check the temperature of each battery in software (of course we used UgCS for this), so before take-off we checked that the temperature of each battery was +5 Celsius at least.
If somebody knows where to order/buy such cases for M600 batteries please let us know. It is not rocket science to DIY them, but I’d rather purchase ready-made ones.
Our tent after a snow storm, 3rd day on the ice cap:
Except for the batteries we didn’t have any problems with drones caused by low temperature. Before we were taken by helicopter to the ice cap from Kulusuk, almost all our heavy equipment (including drones, GPR etc) were delivered by boat to some point on the shore close to the Lost Squadron site - to minimize cost of helicopter flights. Here the equipment was left in boxes on shoreline under polar bear supervision for 4 long days :). But after delivery to site and 2 days of snow storm (it started in couple of hours after landing and everything was buried under snow) everything worked well after unpacking/charging and some warming under the bright Arctic sun.
Bright Arctic sun
It is an even more serious problem then low temperature. On the ice cap light was coming from all directions - you feel as if you were inside a mirrored chamber together with 1000 Lm of light. Outside nothing is visible on the screens - even when the sun is masked by clouds.
The only comfortable place to work with laptops was inside of our “main” tent, but it requires close and constant coordination between ground station operator sitting inside the tent and the drone pilot outside.
Now we are working on a lot of modifications to the UI of UgCS - we will use much larger fonts and more contrast in the theme everywhere. Critical messages will be displayed over the entire screen and it will not be possible to miss them.
For us it was 120km ‘till the nearest WiFi hotspot which was reachable only by helicopter :-).
Next time we will check everything 3 times before leaving the comforts of civilization.
We thought that we had prepared everything. We checked and double-checked our DJIs to prevent any surprises, downloaded maps and elevation data for offline use in UgCS (we used ArcticDEM elevation data – https://www.pgc.umn.edu/data/arcticdem/ ).
But the problem struck us from an unexpected direction. 18 batteries for DJI M600 were taken from our office in Riga and they were tested and used before the expedition in test flights.
Jim Salazar took another 24 batteries from his home in US, half of them were brand new. When we tried to use them on ice cap we got message about old firmware in batteries. F#$%^!!! Is it really so important to block flights in that case????
So if you use such advanced equipment which is coupled to the Internet, you should check that every piece of equipment can work without Internet (with WiFi adapters switched off etc…) I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next generation of DJI drones even the propellers and cables will come with their own firmware and will require periodical updates…
Collision prevention sensors on Phantom 4
We used this small bird to film what we doing here and as cheap scouting drone to check the safety of routes before sending a multi-$$$ system (M600 with GPR) far off into the fog.
To get useful data from the GPR, the maximum altitude from the ground can be 10 meters, but the lower you can go the more accurate the data will be. We tried to use an AGL altitude of 3 meters and used terrain following routes generated by UgCS using ArcticDEM elevation data. But we didn’t have full confidence about the precision of DEM data so when we planned to fly far routes we decided to use Phantom 4 to test whether it was possible to fly generated routes without colliding with the surface of the glacier.
Below is elevation profile of one of the flights down the glacier:
The collision detection sensors and algorithms of DJI Phantom 4 are not only useless in such conditions (where everything is white and you have fog everywhere) but can also cause a lot of problems. In an automatic mission it can decide that it sees obstacle and stop. In case of any problem with the radio link you can lose your drone easily. From my observations false potential collision detections can be caused even by very light fog/clouds - when drone itself was clearly visible.
We recommend disabling all collision detection sensors before flying in such conditions and relying on your eyes, brains and piloting skills.
Flight altitude drift
When we first detected an anomaly under the ice (it was on the first survey line of very first flight!) we decided to make an additional survey of the suspected area using cross-grid with close distance between survey lines and low altitude – 3 m AGL.
When we started these flights it was almost nighttime and the weather was calm, but the temperature started to get colder and colder with every passing minute. As a result katabatic wind began – and it got stronger and stronger as the temperature continued dropping. It was not very strong and without any gusts, so conditions in general were quite safe for flights.
In theory, as the temperature is going down during the flight, the drone should fly higher and higher. But in our flights it descended more and more on each survey line – and finally we stopped the mission to prevent the drone from colliding with the surface of the glacier.
My thought is that it was because of Bernoulli's principle – air pressure in wind should be lower. So the drone made attempts to compensate its virtual ascending. Not sure if I’m right or not.
Special thanks to Air Baltic, Iceland Air and Air Iceland Connect– they allowed us to transport 18 LiPo batteries in hand luggage.
All airport staff now knows about LiPo batteries – so don’t try to transport batteries without a special permission. Hopefully it is possible to get special permission from air companies to do this. We had to use a hard box (similar to Pelican), all batteries should be isolated from each other, and have permission on paper with us (we printed the e-mail from the airline).
Special thanks to Jim Salazar and Ken McBride – expedition co-organizers. It was a really cool endeavor and an unforgettable experience what is almost impossible to get anywhere else.
If you want to help them in their mission – please follow them on Facebook -
Some of you may have already seen our rugged professional mission control units also presented here on DIYdrones. Most of those are produced to at least industrial IP specifications, but developers and DIYers are constantly bombarding us with requests for lighter and especially cheaper integrated solutions that would be at least on the edge of the affordable in applications where fully rugged builds and tightly waterproof features are not an absolute must.
Well, this is our first shot at this, so we're trying to get as much of your valuable input as possible to create a practical hand-held controller that may as well help a lot of people. We've already built the first prototype based on our current RHH line, some of our own ideas and customer input, so it's probably a good start for a conversation on the technical details for a more generic purpose unit with extensive DIY options. Unfortunately, even if we drop most of the IP67 parts and build features of the RHH design, this particular product will still cost around 1200 Euros in very small series, but at least it's not the fully rugged €4k-€7k range. The final price is going to be determined mainly by production numbers, but at the moment we're just aiming for a batch of a few dozen units, just to be on the safe side. The current technical content of the prototype can serve both direct FPV operation and/or payload control, both in the very same neat little package:
7" high contrast and high brightness (700 nit) 1280x800 screen, non-reflective matte or low reflectance glossy surface
non-bluescreening LCD controller with AV/HDMI/VGA input and full menu control
USB programmable er9x/OpenTX compatible open source RC TX logic with full menu control (eepe compatible)
high quality quad ball bearing Hall effect sensor RC style joysticks with full access to slide/ratchet/spring settings on both sides, thumber and pincher operation supported by design
fully managed Li-ion battery system with simple micro USB charge port and high current connector alternative
industrial grade ultra miniature toggle and pushbutton switches, optional pot and rotary switch
high impact industrial ABS enclosure, 210x280mm compact footprint
charger, USB programmer, PPM and HMD AV connections as standard
optional external RF box setup with single field cable
optional external video connection (CVBS/HDMI/VGA)
optional wireless ground video relay (Miracast)
optional IT hw for IP video streaming, telemetry, etc.
As you can see from the above, this is not a telemetry station with any kind of embedded IT hardware, just a direct FPV and payload controller. We currently manufacture a fully rugged 10" all-in-one telemetry GCS with a powerful Android hw, which we would also like to make a light version of, but we're still working out the kinks there, and we'll let you know.
The main questions we would like to ask You are mainly about the acceptable or necessary build and kit readiness levels, the most generic but still practical control layout and labels, built-in or optional RF modules, etc. We also welcome any other input that you may find important here. This is just a short list of issues that we're contemplating at the moment:
Toggles, pots, other controls... shall we adhere to a generic RC control layout (especially 9x type)?
What is your opinion of the current custom layout that caters for both payload and FPV operation with remapping?
Pots in particular, do you need them at all in a professional controller?
6 position rotary flight mode switch, do you need them while you barely use 2-3 flight modes in general?
Joystick trims, do you need them at all in a professional controller? After all, they are a major source of mishaps in non-RC trained fiddly hands...
Single PCB construction or PCB mounted RC switches with connectorised/solder pad-based wiring for DIY purposes?
Moderate waterproof features, we can seal the electronics of the open joysticks, so the water can go simply through the body with port holes in the bottom service covers (or built-in silica pad) ... is this something you need to survive a passing shower?
If it's not clear from all of the above, this is NOT a crowdsourced project, at least not financially, so you don't need to pledge any money to take part in this little endeavour. We're not a one-trick pony start-up venture as we've been in this industry for a decade now, but we have to keep learning from our customers and peers.
The drivers for this market are rapid technological advancements in drones and increase in demand for drone-generated data in commercial applications are the key factors for the growth of the market. Further, the increase in venture funding propels the growth of the UAV drones market.
Military drones are expected to capture the largest share of the UAV drones market. The military drones are being used successfully by defense agencies to guard their borders, to enforce law as well as for combat missions. For example, in September 2017, the US military launched six drone strikes against Islamic State positions in Libya. The adoption of military drones by various countries worldwide for military applications such as border security and spying is the key factor driving the growth of the military drones market.
Among all the major applications of the commercial drones, the market for media and entertainment is expected to hold the largest share in 2017. Drones offer numerous advantages over other methods of capturing images; some of the benefits offered by drones include lower costs and improved quality of films and photos. This is the main driver for the growth of UAV drones market for media and entertainment. The market for precision agriculture is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
The current market is dominated by the players such as Northrop Grumman (US), DJI (China), General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (US), Parrot (France), Thales (France), 3DR (US), Boeing (US), PrecisionHawk (US), Lockheed Martin (US), Textron (US), and AeroVironment (US).