In 2020, worldwide shipments of Internet of Things (IoT) enterprise drones (defined as flying drones) will total 526,000 units, an increase of 50% from 2019, according to Gartner Inc. Global shipments are forecast to reach 1.3 million units by 2023.
“The construction sector is an early adopter of drones, which causes construction monitoring to be the largest use case by shipments worldwide across the forecast,” said Kay Sharpington, principal analyst at Gartner. “Shipments are estimated to reach 210,000 drones in 2020, and more than double by 2023. Drones are taking over tasks such as site surveying and earthworks management as they are faster and safer to carry out with a drone than on foot.”
To save costs when surveying sites, the number of global construction employees per drone will decrease from 2,400 to 640 between 2018 and 2020.
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In the short term, most use cases will be based around surveillance and monitoring due to the technical complexity of other applications. In 2020, the second and third use cases by drone shipments will be fire services monitoring and insurance investigation.
The insurance industry is the second largest use case by shipments with 46,000 drone shipments forecast for 2020. Shipments are expected to nearly triple by 2023, to reach 136,000 that year.
“Drones are used to carry out inspections on buildings and structures after a claim has been made, to assess the extent and cause of the damage. They can also be used to evaluate the type and condition of the building when providing an insurance quote,” said Sharpington. “Their benefits are valuable. For example, they reduce the cost of scaffolding, ladders and employee time and provide a comprehensive photographic record of the building condition.”
To survey claim areas at a lower cost, Gartner expects insurance drones will grow from one per 152,000 people in 2018 to one per 72,000 people worldwide in 2020.
Police and firefighting agencies globally are deploying drones in public safety operations, wildfire management, crime scene investigation, and search and rescue operations. Gartner estimates that the number of drones used by police and firefighters will grow from one per 210,000 people to one per 47,000 people between 2018 and 2020.
“Fire service drones use cameras and thermal imaging to identify fire sources, extreme heat areas, trapped people and the positions of firefighters in the field,” said Sharpington. “Consequently, firefighting agencies can deploy resources in the right areas in emergencies and investigate incidents while minimizing risk to lives.”
Drones used for retail deliveries will provide customers with rapid service and allow retailers access to customers in remote areas. However, the regulatory restrictions and logistical challenge of coordinating flight paths, managing airspace over densely populated areas and managing various payloads mean that retail, overall, is a longer-term opportunity for drones.
Drone shipments will total 25,000 in 2020 and will rise to 122,000 units in 2023. Following this predicted trajectory, the biggest opportunity for retail will come after 2023. In addition, Gartner estimates that the number of employees per drone will decrease from 73,000 global retail employees per drone in 2018 to 18,000 global retail employees per drone in 2020.