[Editor’s Note: In addition to offering data plans for drones, Verizon will use drones to study pipelines and high-voltage lines.]
This post originally appeared on http://www.businessinsider.com/verizon-has-big-plans-for-drones-2016-10.
Verizon recently conducted a test of a drone equipped with wireless antennas designed to provide cellular coverage to dead zones, Bloomberg reports.
The initial test was designed to see if the drone could provide coverage to an area in the aftermath of a natural disaster, where power lines and cell towers may be knocked down or disabled. However, in a statement, Verizon explained that the company plans to expand use cases soon. The test is part of a larger long-term plan for drones within their operations, which includes the following:
- Utilizing drones to study pipelines and high-voltage lines, which would prevent the need for a human to go up and inspect potentially dangerous equipment. Only six Americans died in 2015 from incidents relating to power line inspection, which is down from previous years; it is, however, a problem telco providers should address.
- Aerial imaging from drones could allow for more accurate water and agricultural management. By taking photos of water levels and crops, Verizon hopes to provide water management facilities and farmers more accurate information on the status of the goods they manage via its recently released Thingspace platform. This is similar to the way smart meters can provide critical data on agricultural or water management operations.
- Allow first responders to survey natural disasters and report back on damages,thereby increasing the overall efficiency of responses to natural disasters. This is a similar plan to the one Johns Hopkins and Flirtey recently tested in New Jersey, in which medical supplies would be delivered via drone to victims of natural disasters.
In addition, Verizon will start working with drone makers to connect them to Verizon’s networks, according to The Wall Street Journal. The data plans will start at $25 a month for 1 GB of data and $80 for 10 GB, similar to what consumers pay for data currently. Verizon is targeting companies that operate in the three areas listed above, as well as companies that could inspect oil pipelines or wildfires, for example.
While Verizon’s drone plans are not revolutionary, they do put the company in a strong position to benefit from the use drones across a variety of applications. Similar to Facebook’s drone project, Verizon’s drones will be able to provide coverage to rural areas. Further, these drones will help the company collect data to feed into the its Thingspace platform. Finally, as enterprises and individuals begin to purchase drones, Verizon is positioning itself to provide the drones with internet connection to collect monthly feeds.
Drones turned the corner in 2015 to become a popular consumer device, while a framework for regulation that legitimizes drones in the US began to take shape. Technological and regulatory barriers still exist to further drone adoption.
Drone manufacturers and software providers are quickly developing technologies like geo-fencing and collision avoidance that will make flying drones safer. The accelerating pace of drone adoption is also pushing governments to create new regulations that balance safety and innovation.
Safer technology and better regulation will open up new applications for drones in the commercial sector, including drone delivery programs like Amazon’s Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing initiatives.
Jonathan Camhi, research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has compiled a detailed drones report that forecasts sales revenues for consumer, enterprise, and military drones. It also projects the growth of drone shipments for consumers and enterprises.
The report details several of world’s major drone suppliers and examines trends in drone adoption among several leading industries. Finally, it examines the regulatory landscape in several markets and explains how technologies like obstacle avoidance and drone-to-drone communications will impact drone adoption.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
- We project revenues from drones sales to top $12 billion in 2021, up from just over $8 billion last year.
- Shipments of consumer drones will more than quadruple over the next five years, fueled by increasing price competition and new technologies that make flying drones easier for beginners.
- Growth in the enterprise sector will outpace the consumer sector in both shipments and revenues as regulations open up new use cases in the US and EU, the two biggest potential markets for enterprise drones.
- Technologies like geo-fencing and collision avoidance will make flying drones safer and make regulators feel more comfortable with larger numbers of drones taking to the skies.
- Right now FAA regulations have limited commercial drones to a select few industries and applications like aerial surveying in the agriculture, mining, and oil and gas sectors.
- The military sector will continue to lead all other sectors in drone spending during our forecast period thanks to the high cost of military drones and the growing number of countries seeking to acquire them.