2017 was a big year for the drone industry. Regulations slowly but surely started to evolve, new services and use cases were introduced on a weekly basis, and both hardware and software took big leaps forward.
So what's in store for 2018?
The Rise of Automation
With more companies using drones to perform tasks and collect data, we can expect those processes to become increasingly automated in years to come. However, regulations requiring a pilot and restricting beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight will remain for the foreseeable future. It's clear what the next step will be, the industry just has to prove itself capable of making it a reality.
2018 will probably not be the year that drones around the world perform tasks en masse without pilot supervision. But while we wait for the full automation of flight, there's no reason why data transfer and analysis won't become smoother and more integrated. That's where the true value is, after all.
DJI Will Continue to Dominate
Now that GoPro has officially turned away from manufacturing drones, it looks as though DJI will continue to dominate the commercial and consumer hardware markets in the coming year.
This is down to aggressive pricing, rapid iteration and, of course, a range of high-tech drones suitable for beginners, enthusiasts and professionals. Who knows, maybe 2018 will be the year we see the Phantom 5 and a new iteration of the Mavic Pro.
More Affordable Technology
Usually, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the platform for startups and industry giants from all over the world to bring new products to market. This year was no different. One of the most interesting drone-related announcements was the Tello, a beginner-friendly drone from Shenzhen startup Ryze Tech.
Cheap toy drones represents probably the most saturated part of the hardware market. But unlike Tello, none of the others feature flight and vision technology from DJI and Intel. The Tello will also be sold on the DJI website. At just $99, this tiny drone is capable of much more than its low-budget competitors.
The move is perhaps a sign of things to come: more capable drones, lower prices and more happy pilots.
Issues Over Public Sentiment Will Remain
2017 was a year that seemed full of negative publicity for the drone industry. There were several stories of collisions and near misses between drones and manned aircraft. Unsurprisingly, these incidents made headlines on what felt like a weekly basis.
Unless something serious can be done to reassure the public over issues of safety and privacy, we could be set for another year where negative drone headlines outnumber the positive.
Looking on the bright side, drone technology is increasingly being used for good. There are plenty of examples of the technology helping out in conservation, saving lives as part of search and rescue missions and generally supporting emergency services. Let's hope that these use cases get the attention they deserve in the coming year.
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