It is widely known that the US military has used unmanned aircraft systems, often referred to as drones, for over 400 times in the past four years . Drones perform the same military tactics as other alternative methods at a relatively low cost, with no risk to U.S. forces while causing less collateral damage. These features make drones the centerpiece in the counter-terrorism strategy for the Obama administration.
Drones bring heated discussions on controversial issues including killing more civilian than terrorists, violation of sovereignty, etc. Despite these issues drones are now widely used in civilian segments and creating enormous possibilities for the future. We have seen live footage of this year’s Golden Globes award ceremony broadcast by drones, rescue teams relying on drones to navigate after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal , and mysterious drones spying on a French team training session before the World Cup .
Pop culture has also picked up drones as one of the advance techniques to develop high quality programs. The 2012 the James Bond film “Skyfall” used drones to film the scene where 007 raced across the rooftops of Istanbul . In America, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved exemption of using commercial drones by 6 filming companies for certain movies in September 2014 . The birds-eye view and endless possibilities to film in hard to reach angles will elevate the quality of the film. FAA’s approval for film industries also showed a positive future for other commercial industries that are seeking to get the drone exemption for their specific needs.
There is much more that a commercial drone can help with. A study from the American Red Cross shows that the flexibility of drones allows for a quick reaction to devastating events, such as hurricanes or superstorms, which is crucial to save lives . Defense contractor Lockheed Martin partnered with Project Lifesaver to develop a drone that can locate missing people with cognitive disabilities . There is also a drone that was designed specifically for agriculture use by a Chinese company Xaircraft, which can crop-dust 143,000 square feet farm land in a single fly .
Regardless of the lagging government policies and regulations on drones, the fast-growing global drone market is getting investments and efforts to advance this new computing market. DJI, a Chinese company accounts for 70% of the global commercial drone market and has raised $75 million from Accel Partners, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm . According to a recent report from BI Intelligence, the market for commercial or civilian drones will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19%between 2015 and 2020 .
The development of drones will obviously impact the demand and supply of certain electronic components on a global level. From an industry standing point, the introduction of drones to the logistic service is also going to impact the supply chain as a whole where manufactures are concerned of just-in-time inventory management . Delivering with drones will also help reduce the cost and time for ground shipping methods. The FAA’s lift for drones in logistic service may come in years, but this is definitely a trend that players in the electronic industry should be watching.