Utilities are leaders of drone adoption – report

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Utilities are leading spending on drone programmes, DroneAnalyst’s latest annual survey of market trends reveals.

The study finds that while the average drone programme has now pivoted over $10,000, with the largest growth in the $50,000-100,000 range, the trend is most pronounced in the utilities sector with almost half spending $50,000 or more on their programmes in the past year.

Moreover, almost a quarter of these high spending utilities spent over $500,000 in the past 12 months to support and grow their drone operations.

Notably also, after the agricultural sector, utilities were most forward-looking with autonomy. Of the utilities surveyed almost half noted that autonomy was key to purchasing and adoption, while one-third considered autonomy was required to unlock full adoption.

Drone insights

The survey was based on almost 2,000 responses, mainly from North America and included drone purchasers and service providers among other users.

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Another key insight that emerged is that regulatory challenges continue to be a top inhibitor to growing drone operations.

But others have grown in importance, with the largest being the sourcing of trained pilots, while others include proving the return on investment and internal standard operating procedures.

Another finding is that the drone services market is maturing after an initial hype, which has seen the coming and going of new market entrants.

Drone programme users also are found to be adopting other forms of industrial robotic solutions, mostly canine inspired or other ground-based systems. Overall, this signifies that drone users have a high likelihood to need other unmanned systems, the report says.

This is again mirrored in the utility sector with the use of robots to perform underground line inspections, while Hydro-Québec’s novel LineDrone combines the two capabilities enabling the device to fly and land on a transmission line and then crawl along the line in monitoring mode.

In the utility sector, drones are being used primarily for inspections of lines and other infrastructure. However, a limitation is the range of the drones. So far, only a few beyond line of sight operations are permitted.