UAVs are tackling everything from disease control to vacuuming up ocean waste to delivering pizza, and more. Drone technology has been used by defense organizations and tech-savvy consumers for quite some time. However, the benefits of this technology extends well beyond just these sectors. With the rising accessibility of drones, many of the most dangerous and high-paying jobs within the commercial sector are ripe for displacement by drone technology. The use cases for safe, cost-effective solutions range from data collection to delivery. And as autonomy and collision-avoidance technologies improve, so too will drones' ability to perform increasingly complex tasks. According to forecasts, the emerging global market for business services using drones is valued at over $127B. As more companies look to capitalize on these commercial opportunities, investment into the drone space continues to grow. A drone or a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) typically refers to a pilotless aircraft that operates through a combination of technologies, including computer vision, artificial intelligence, object avoidance tech, and others. But drones can also be ground or sea vehicles that operate autonomously.
ONCE THOUGHT OF AS A NICHE TOY for early adopters, drones can now be found buzzing over parks, in select cities, and are even being increasingly used for video production as the popularity of aerial photography soars. However, drones aren't only for fun and entertainment, and the high-pitched hum of their spinning propellers could replace the wail of ambulance sirens for global citizens as drones are put to work for humanitarian purposes. In March of 2017, DJI, the manufacturers of the most popular commercial drones, published a report about drones' life-saving capabilities, citing cases in which drones manned by volunteers or bystanders were used in emergency situations like floods and avalanches, resulting in 59 life-saving rescues in China, Canada, the U.S., and Turkey. Given that it takes 25 people 35 hours to search one square mile for missing persons, compared to the 30 minutes it takes a drone to cover the same area, regardless of treacherous conditions on the ground, drones are uniquely suited for search and rescue, even when piloted by hobbyists. Based on the increasing trend of drone use in the last 10 months covered by the report, DJI estimated that drones would be directly responsible for saving at least one person per week in the future.
United Parcel Service (UPS) is newest competitor in the race to unleash the first fleet of delivery drones. The firm began testing the use of drones this week with a focus of bringing packages to remote or difficult-to-access locations. A mock delivery of urgent medical supplies was delivered from Beverly, Massachusetts to Children's Island as a test, which is the first drone delivery to be made by a major delivery firm in the US. United Parcel Service (UPS) is newest competitor in the race to unleash the first fleet of delivery drones. UPS announced today that it has begun testing the use of drones to make commercial deliveries of packages to remote or difficult-to-access locations, working together with drone-maker CyPhy Works.
Drone companies saw a record number of deals last year. On a quarterly basis, Q1'17 was the most active quarter historically for deals, reaching 32 investments worth $113M. Within the space, terrestrial imagery, infrastructure inspection, and delivery have emerged as some of the primary use cases for drone technology. Using CB Insights data, we identified over 70 leading private companies in the drones space and categorized them into the twelve main categories in which they operate. We define drones broadly to include software and hardware companies developing technologies related to unmanned aerial, marine, and/or land vehicles designed for unstructured environments.