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Drones took to the skys. Where are they going? – IV

The Global Drone Outlook 2020 foresees a 2020 where drones will be used in urban environment for delivery, their autonomy capacity will be enhanced, traffic management functions will become available as well as standards. All of this will be pushing up the number of drones and the need to have countermeasures in case of problems … Image credit: Drone INdustry Insights

The drone industry has kept growing in the last decade, taking on board the consumer market and extending the application range in commercial domain. Hence, it is a no brainer to predict that at least for 2020 this trend will continue.

According to Drone Industry Insights report “Global Drone Outlook 2020: What’s on the Agenda“, published two days ago on January 7th 2020, we can expect a growth in commercial drones fuelled by new application areas and with some application areas that have been experimental in the last year turning into mature services (in particular some delivery applications may become mature). The growth will also be made possible by standards (ISO announced the first drone safety standard in December 2019).

Interestingly, the report points out the growing concern of malicious or simply incautious use of drones, we had a few cases in 2018/2019, two of them as far as I remember led to disruption in air traffic in London (and at least one was suspected of being intentional). Because of this growing concern and the expected increase in drone usage and application the report expects a growth in counter-drone technology (there are already several companies offering these technologies). Military is clearly investing quite a lot in this area. The issue is quite challenging since drones are very flexible, autonomous and AI is making them even more aware and auto-responsive, they can accelerate from 0 to 90kmh in just a second and change direction in the blink of an eye.

Drone-goods delivery is moving from the trial phase into commercial reality. Image credit: Paymill

On the positive side, the growth in autonomous capabilities, also emphasised in the report, means that commercial applications, like delivery of goods, will become possible (well not as imagined in the picture on the side…). We have seen quite a number of experiments run in the last two years, like Amazon Prime Air, and FedEx, this year we can expect to see the first start (in very limited areas, probably) of commercial service. In the clip the pilot service launched by FedEx in collaboration with Walgreens and operated by Wing.

The increase in autonomy (a result of better sensors, increased processing capability and the injection of artificial intelligence) is going to make the control of drones much simpler, which, in turns, will give a further boost to the consumer market.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.