A commercial industry has boomed, and hundreds of thousands of drones are being used for media, land surveying, building and infrastructure inspections, and personal entertainment.
Drones were used extensively during the coronavirus outbreak of 2020: to monitor residents and encourage them to stay indoors, to inspect traffic stops and hospitals, and to spray cities with disinfectants. A video clip went viral on a Chinese social media site, showing a drone breaking up a mahjong game—residents defied local ordinances to stay indoors. The government was reportedly using drones outfitted with infrared cameras to fly overhead and check for people who might have fevers.
China offers a glimpse into how drones will be used more in the near-future. Autonomous drones–capable of working independently and together as part of a larger fleet–are finding wider commercial use in natural disasters, for package deliveries, for smart city management, within warehouses, and on automated farms.
As drone demand increases around the world, it’s likely that consolidation will follow. Flight service providers, hardware startups, drone and aircraft manufacturers, asset and flight path management software, and data processing platforms will see a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the near future, which could make it difficult for new startups to compete.
Widespread future use of commercial drones will likely depend on standardizing regulations. If companies are forced to comply with patchwork regulations in different locations, it would make compliance burdensome.
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