DRONES MAY NOT BE DELIVERING your Amazon Prime packages just yet, but these small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly delivering data that businesses can use to their advantage. “Every day people are exploring and finding new ways to leverage this technology,” says John Vernon, chief technology officer at DroneUp, a drone services provider (DSP) and pilot network, and a member of the Drone Advisory Council for industry organization CompTIA.
In its report The Drone Market: Insights from Customers and Providers, CompTIA notes that “drones sit at the intersection of technology and business,” and suggests that IT services firms can get in on the action by partnering or collaborating with DSPs, expanding both their portfolio and recurring revenue opportunities.
Channel pros bring complementary skills to the table. While DSPs provide FAA-licensed operators to fly drones with cameras and sensors that collect images, video, and other data, that data needs to be protected, stored, analyzed, and integrated with existing solutions in some cases, and must also adhere to corporate data governance rules. That’s the skill set of IT companies, says David Kovar, founder and CEO at URSA, a software platform provider for analyzing drone performance.
Drone service providers “really need to take into account making sure the data is secure, making sure the information’s available where it needs to be utilized, and making sure that that data is well managed,” says Kovar, who also sits on the CompTIA Drone Advisory Council. “And that all really comes down to communications, infrastructure, data security—all the sorts of things that IT companies and related companies, that’s their bread and butter.”
In fact, CompTIA research finds that business customers increasingly want drone providers to have expertise in analytics, broad-based IT, cybersecurity, software development, and managed services.
There’s a lot of opportunity to capitalize on. The global drone services market is expected to grow from $4.4 billion in 2018 to $63.6 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 55.9%, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com.
And the adopters are not just large companies with deep pockets either. Some SMBs are also turning to drones to gain a competitive edge and cost efficiencies, according to CompTIA’s report.
Emerging markets for drone services include agriculture, oil/gas, real estate, government, transportation, entertainment and media, telecommunications, and mining, CompTIA says. More than one-third (34%) of organizations it surveyed manage their drone projects internally, while more than one-fourth (27%) rely on the expertise of DSPs, and 39% use both in-house and outsourced resources.
The use of drone services varies from ongoing (40%) to one-time use (23%) to an even mix between ongoing and situational use (37%).
According to Vernon, however, SMBs lag behind larger enterprises in terms of adoption, and need more education around uses cases. “The art of the possible is still often undefined for a lot of organizations,” he stresses.