The global market revenue for drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), is expected to reach $6 billion by the end of 2017 and top $11.2 billion by 2020, research firm Gartner predicted. The market forecasts were detailed in a Gartner report released Thursday, which also noted the growing convergence of the consumer and commercial drone markets.
"The commercial and personal drone markets are increasingly overlapping, as lower-priced personal devices are being used for commercial ventures," Gerald Van Hoy, senior research analyst at Gartner, said in a press release. "Personal drone vendors are now aggressively trying to position themselves in the commercial market. Recent technological advances blur the lines, allowing personal drones to be used in many special-purpose applications such as surveillance, 3D mapping and modeling."
Nearly 3 million drones will be manufactured in 2017, which marks a 39% increase from production numbers in 2016, the report said. And, while the two markets are overlapping, consumer and commercial drone customers still have very different needs.
On the consumer side, personal drones are growing in popularity, the report said. One of the biggest drivers of this growth is the drone as a complementary product to one's smartphone, as it can take pictures or provide other forms of entertainment. Gartner's report noted that these drones typically cannot fly for longer than one hour, and usually cost less than $5,000.
Commercial drones, or drones that are used for enterprise applications, have a smaller overall market, but a higher price point compared to their consumer counterparts, the report said. More countries are now defining their regulations for drones, and companies are beginning to test how they can apply the technology in the market.
"Commercial drones normally have a higher payload, longer flight times, and redundant sensors and flight controllers to make them safer." the report said. "They are more specialized to a function, such as mapping, delivery or industrial inspection, so prices vary according to these requirements."
While the agriculture vertical was expected to be the breakout success for commercial drones, the cost and potential ROI have lead to slower-the-expected growth. By Gartner's prediction, these challenges mean that drone adoption in agriculture will likely top out at 7% through 2020.
The use of commercial drones for industrial applications is growing, and hasn't been impacted by regulatory hurdles that were initially expected, the report said. Gartner predicts that these applications could make up 30% of the overall commercial market for drones.
And despite a lot of hype around delivery drones, the use case isn't proving worthwhile.
"Delivery drones will be mired in logistical issues like the time needed to return a drone to its origin point after delivery, and will amount to less than 1 percent of the commercial market by 2020," Van Hoy said in the release. "We expect that delivery drones will begin finding a niche in business-to-business applications first, particularly for internal services within one company where logistics will not be such a big factor."
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Gartner predicts global drone revenue will hit $6 billion by the end of 2017, and will top $11.2 billion in 2020.
- While the consumer and commercial drone markets have different needs, the two markets are overlapping in some areas.
- Despite their hype, delivery drones aren't proving a worthy investment, and will make up less than 1% of the commercial drone market.
- How a drone on a leash will transform autonomous flying (TechRepublic)
- Intel's drone light show at Super Bowl will lead to more business use (ZDNet)
- Gallery: 10 self-flying auto-follow drones to take on your weekend adventures (TechRepublic)
- Intel's Shooting Star light show drones make US debut (ZDNet)
- Gallery: 10 unique drones that are sure to turn heads (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.