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Drones

May 8, 2021 | Trends

When Paris, France-based Parrot launched the AR.Drone quadcopter at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, the company created quite a stir. A tiny drone outfitted with a 720p HD camera could be flown with an iPhone and live-stream videos or pictures to a smartphone app. The AR.Drone went on sale at Brookstone for $300 on Sept. 3, 2010. It was quite a remarkable achievement in 2010.

While the word “drone” conjures up visions of U.S. military Reapers and Predators, the consumer-friendly kind produced by Parrot and its eventual competition would find a ready market among professional photographers and hobbyists. The world of aerial videography would never again be the same.

  • Market dimensions – The global commercial drone market size was valued at $13 billion in 2020, based on a unit volume of 689,400. The commercial sector consists of applications in construction, agriculture, energy, entertainment, law enforcement, and, of course, photography. The 2020 consumer drone market, in comparison, was estimated at $3.3 billion.
  • Aerial photography – A spine-tingling video posted on Vimeo by @Jenk1907 flying over Istanbul’s Taksim square just before it was shot down shows just what an AR.Drone was capable of in the hands of ordinary citizens. Unable to compete with Chinese drone makers, Parrot abandoned the consumer drone market in 2019.
  • Delivery drones – When Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos famously showed off a delivery drone prototype on U.S. television in 2013, many considered it a publicity stunt. In August 2020, however, Amazon’s Prime Air service received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to deliver packages. With commercial UAVs able to travel up to 100 mph to deliver goods under 5 lbs (2.3 kg), drone deliveries decrease delivery time and costs. In October 2019, the FAA granted UPS approval for its UPS Flight Forward service. Both companies were upstaged by Google in April 2019, when Alphabet’s Wing became the first company to gain FAA approval to make drone deliveries.

    63% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if ‘personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace.’”
    — Pew Research Center
    April 17, 2014

  • Search and rescue – Drones equipped with a FLIR thermal camera also make excellent search-and-rescue vehicles. The successful case of a drone finding an 82-year-old man who had gone missing for three days is evident from this headline: “ Officials Search for 3 Days; Drone Finds Missing Man After 20 Minutes.”

In 2014, 63% of Americans thought it would be a “change for the worse” if commercial drones were given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace.

It’s impossible, however, for consumers to assess quantum leaps in future technology because they have little understanding of its inherent potential. Give drones a few decades, and you’ll see them everywhere.

Michael Tchong’s Ubertrends book
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