It seems impossible to stay on top of all the major changes that are going on in the drone industry, so here’s a list of some trends to keep a close eye on this year:

For Platform Manufacturers:

  • Lots of consolidation is happening–mergers, acquisitions, drop-outs and market focus changes.
  • Trends towards strong specialization–agriculture, delivery systems and safety and security are some of the bigger industries that are seeing the development of specialization.
  • Autonomous Air Taxis (AAT) (i.e. flying cars) will be in the forefront–lots of funding in this space.
  • Drone racing events and selfie drones will continue to define the industry.

In Software:

  • A great need for artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms is out there–with these types of algorithms, drones can automate processes even more, and in turn, provide more value.
  • Providing one piece of the puzzle might not be enough–more strategic software partnerships will form to provide end-to-end solutions.

In Service:

  • Drone logistics services are on the rise.
  • Drone show providers are becoming all the buzz–whether drones are being used to carry out a half-time show or indoor entertainment, this area is on the rise.
  • Standard configurations of drones are not cutting it–there is a great need for more industry-specific configurations.
  • Drones as a Service (DaaS) have matured and more big businesses will start utilizing these services when in-house operations don’t make sense.

In Counter-UAS:

  • Big funding and large international partnerships are forming in this area.
  • One of the biggest concerns is limitations for physical and non-physical systems that include jammer restrictions (federal network agency) and problems for health in public spaces (e.g. pacemakers).

In Components and Systems:

  • More businesses (and government entities) need launch and recovery because of high-priced equipment and flights in populated areas that require rigorous safety measures.
  • Hybrid systems (i.e. battery/fuel cell, gas/battery) will be essential for longer flights and endurance.
  • Encrypted data links will also be essential–standard drone-to-ground communication is quite vulnerable otherwise.

The big pictures? Machine learning for drones (in navigation and analytics) is driving numerous developments; the degree of automation and adoption of drone technology will further increase throughout the year. All of these developments and trends are indicative of how and why 2018 will be a big (and exciting) year for drones.