Once confined to the military space, drones have flown into our hearts – first as enthusiasts and hobbyists, and now as commercial businesses. It remains to be seen how deeply the technology will penetrate the security space, but it might make sense for dealers and integrators to start seeking partnerships in this growing area quickly to harness a projected massive increase in demand.
Sales of drones to businesses and consumers will more than triple to become a $2 billion market by 2020, according to market research firm Freedonia.
Next-generation smart drones designed specifically for the commercial market leverage better technology than their consumer counterparts, including support for high quality video that would be key for the surveillance industry. Smart commercial drones have a computer inside. They are easy to fly, maneuverable remotely, contain sensor logic and will soon include computer-driven collision avoidance technology. Cameras are improving dramatically to permit management of video and picture taking that is realistic and detailed.
In August, Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations took effect – which for the first time ever, establishes rules that broadly authorize commercial drone operations in the United States. Now, flying a drone for commercial purposes no longer requires a pilot's license, as long as they weigh no more than 55 pounds, soar no higher than 400 feet and fly no closer than 400 feet from buildings or structures. Users simply apply for a remote pilot certificate, which requires passing an aeronautics test at an FAA-approved facility and undergoing a background check.
Both the technological advances and the easing of federal regulations means it is no longer difficult to envision how a security director could use a fleet of drones to supplement or even take the place of, for example, perimeter surveillance systems and sensors.
Research and Markets predicts that among all commercial markets, the law enforcement application is expected to hold the largest market share, at 25 percent. Goldman Sachs reports that the fastest growth opportunity comes from businesses and civil governments. While they are just beginning to explore the possibilities, Goldman Sachs expects them to spend $13 billion on drones between now and 2020, putting thousands of them in the sky.
“People are captivated by the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer and they are already creating business opportunities in this exciting new field,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
For its part, Reed Exhibitions and SIA have seen the writing on the wall. For the first time in 2017, show attendees will see what has become ubiquitous at expos like CES – the “drone cage” – which will host daily flight technology demos on the show floor. In all, nearly 40 vendors will participate in this year’s Unmanned Security Expo at ISC West, which not only includes technology demos, but educational seminars as well.
According to show organizers, 33 percent Of end-users have plans to integrate UAVs or UGVs into their security strategy in 2017; and 61 percent of ISC West attendees are interested in sourcing unmanned technology at the show – many of them are likely competing integrators.
Over the next decade, civilian use of drones are expected to grow at robust rates similar to those posted by smartphones following the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, Freedonia says.2017 might be the year for you to grab your slice of the pie.
Paul Rothman is Editor in Chief of Security Dealer & Integrator (SD&I) magazine. Access the current issue, full archives and subscribe at www.secdealer.com.