With the continuous development of drone technology, the expansion of their commercial applications, and the increased use of drones in industrial fields, their commercial value will continue to grow. The development of Smart Drones has led the industrial drone market to realize rapid growth in recent years.
What is a smart drone?
A smart drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that uses intelligent applications to perform complex operations. A UAV is operated by radio remote control and is mainly used to replace humans to complete aerial tasks. In recent years, the research and development of intelligent applications for unmanned aerial vehicles has been actively carried out all over the world, and the intelligent unmanned aerial vehicle market has developed rapidly.
Overview of the development of the drone industry:
A drone is an aircraft remotely operated through a control station, therefore is also known as a remotely piloted aircraft. It can be controlled by either a human operator or an automatic, programmed system. A UAV system refers to a complete system composed of a UAV aircraft, a flight control and navigation subsystem, ground command and control subsystem, and mission load subsystem. UAVs are efficient aircraft, which can safely replace humans for data collection, high-altitude photography, geological telemetry, remote monitoring, and other operations.
Market size analysis and forecast of UAV industry:
The global civilian UAV market and the large-scale military UAV market are becoming more and more mature. The rapid growth in demand for UAVs in industrial applications and the growth of the small military surveillance UAV market are driving the continuous expansion of the global UAV industry. In 2019, the global military UAV and civilian UAV sales were US$11 billion and US$10.3 billion respectively, accounting for 51.69% and 48.31% of the market respectively. It is estimated that by 2024, the global drone market will exceed US$79 billion.
In recent years, civilian drones have occupied a large share of the drone market, and of these, industrial drones have seen the most rapid development, meeting the needs of expanding industrial application scenarios. In 2020 the global demand for industrial drones, used for industrial purposes, exceeded the demand for other consumer drones, which mainly focus on life and entertainment uses.
What are the classifications of drones?
- Classification by use: UAVs can generally be divided into military UAVs and civilian UAVs.
- Civilian drones can be further divided into consumer drones and industrial drones. Military UAVs have high requirements on endurance, cruising speed, flight altitude, operating distance, and mission load.
- Consumer drones are primarily used for aerial photography and entertainment, with an emphasis on photography capabilities and maneuverability.
- Industrial drones focus on economic benefits and pursue a balance of performance and endurance. They have high requirements for professional applications, such as sufficient cruising speed, range, and control. Industrial drones can perform diverse functions and can carry diverse mission loads. They are mainly used in surveying and mapping for geographic information, inspection, security monitoring, emergency, and other fields.
- Classification by aerodynamic layout: UAVs are mainly divided into fixed-wing UAVs, multi-rotor UAVs, unmanned helicopters, and vertical take-off and landing fixed-wing UAVs. Vertical take-off UAVs have the advantage of convenient take-off and landing, whereas fixed-wing UAVs have longer flight times.
- Classification by power type: UAVs can be divided into electric UAVs, oil-powered UAVs, and hybrid UAVs.
Development history of the drone industry:
UAVs were mainly used by the military during their early days. They were first used as target drones, and then later for reconnaissance, intelligence detection, and bomb-carrying strikes. The United States, Japan, and China have all explored the application of UAVs in the civilian field. From 2008 to 2014, further developments in informatization, mission payload, satellite navigation, and other technologies, led to UAVs being used in many military and industrial fields. With the rapid development of flight control and navigation technology, UAVs have seen miniaturization, increased intelligence, and cost reductions. Monitoring for agriculture and forestry, and surveying for mapping and geographic information collection have also developed rapidly.
Driving factors for the development of drone service applications:
Lower overall operating cost:
The overall cost of using drones for cargo delivery, aerial photography, geographic information collection, pesticide and fertilizer spraying, wind turbines, and oil and gas pipeline inspections is lower than that of traditional human or manned aircraft.
- Improved work efficiency, flexibility, and diversified application capabilities:
UAVs combine various sensing equipment and auxiliary tools to complete various tasks more efficiently. They can be used for real-time monitoring of disaster sites and delivery of emergency medical supplies under crowded urban traffic conditions.
Reduce manpower requirements and personnel risks:
The main core features that make UAVs competitive is that they can reduce the manpower required to complete operations while avoiding the risk of personal injury faced by traditional manual operations. For example, UAVs are regularly used to inspect wind turbines, bridges, and high-rise buildings.
Continuous technological innovation:
The combination of drones with various sensing, information communication, data analysis, and other technologies is an important factor for the continuous emergence of many UAV innovative service applications. For example, through image processing and massive data analysis, UAV can effectively complete services such as geographic information collection, precision agriculture applications, facility inspection, and asset management.
Trends in the drone industry: 5G-enabled connected drones
With the continuous increase of industrial UAV mission load sensors, high-definition image transmission requirements, the sophistication of positioning, and the complexity of task execution, higher requirements are placed on the bandwidth of the data link. The application scenarios of industrial drones are highly in line with the three major application scenarios of 5G defined by the International Telecommunication Union, namely enhanced mobile bandwidth, ultra-reliable and low-latency communication, and large-scale machine-type communication. The next-generation mobile communication technology represented by 5G technology is currently the optimal solution for the industrial drone data link.
The enabling of drones by 5G technology will accelerate the application of industrial drones in the fields of security monitoring, mapping and geographic information, inspection, agriculture, forestry, and plant protection.
- 5G will provide a highly reliable, low-latency, wide-coverage data link systems to improve technical control. UAVs will access the cloud system to realize real-time monitoring of UAV flight dynamics, real-name authentication, and real-time networking for drones.
- The 5G network can effectively meet the needs of high-definition image transmission, fine positioning, and real-time control of UAVs in the industry. UAVs will be used more in security monitoring, mapping, geographic information collection, patrol inspection, agriculture, forestry, and plant protection.