Growing Use of Drones Prompts Commercial Customers to Examine Future Needs and Options, CompTIA Study Finds
Report Reveals Strong Customer Satisfaction and Untapped Market Potential
With commercial drone services taking on an expanding role in the business world, companies are examining how best to use unmanned vehicle systems to deliver even more value and productivity, according to a report published by CompTIA, the leading trade association for the global technology industry.
“The Drone Market: Insights from Customers and Providers” report suggests that there is significant untapped market potential for drone manufacturers, drone solution providers (DSPs), managed service providers (MSPs), distributors, operators, and others in the drone ecosystem.
At the same time, customers are taking a fresh look at their use of drones, including how they access drone services and the capabilities; and the expertise they expect from their partners and providers. About one-third of current business customers report managing drone technology internally, while 27 percent rely on external DSPs or related firms. The remaining 39 percent utilize a hybrid approach of internal and external management.
“Drone providers must pay close attention to the shifting wants and needs of their customers,” said Annette Taber, senior vice president for industry outreach at CompTIA. “As the market matures, more businesses will view drones as devices on the network that must adhere to security, data and operational protocols.”
Just under one-half of the companies surveyed said they expect to continue working with their current DSP or technology partner over the next two to three years. But one-third expect to transition to a more capable firm; one with greater competencies and expertise in areas such as data and analytics, broad-based information technology, cybersecurity, software development, and managed services. Experience working in specific vertical industries is another consideration.
Mapping and surveys; inspections; security and monitoring; data and analytics; and “solutions” that bring together elements of drone hardware, software, infrastructure and services are the areas where drone service providers expect to see growth.
Among current users, nearly half characterized their current drone engagements as “new,” meaning they leveraged the technology to accomplish something that was not previously possible. About 40 percent have on-going projects that utilize drone technologies. Another 23 percent categorized themselves as one-time users.
The Next Wave of Customers
As with any new technology, growth beyond early adopters requires the right mix of positioning, process and value. Among current non-users of drones, about one in four expect to begin using the technology in some capacity over the next 12 months.
Potential customers cite budget constraints as their top hurdle, followed by a lack of internal expertise and challenges in making a business case for drone investments.
“The study confirms that existing customers express high rates of satisfaction with drone technology, the outputs produced and the return on investment,” Taber said. “These positives will certainly help in making the case to new customers. But DSPs must keep in mind that different customer segments require different approaches.”
Companies in the drone market will also face challenges in finding, training and retaining skilled professionals who can fill various positions in this emerging technology segment. Nearly nine in 10 drone service providers and related firms reported having some degree of a skills gap among their staff. This, even as hiring intent increased 183 percent from 2017 to 2018. Employment numbers are projected to continue rising at a steady rate as more organizations realize the benefits of aerial imagery, data collection, and transport.
CompTIA’s “The Drone Market” report is based on a survey of 669 current drone customers, prospective customers, drone services providers and related technology firms across the United States. The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems (AUVSI) also provide input and support for the study.