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Upcoming trends for the drone industry

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DQI Bureau
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The drone industry is experiencing significant growth and transformation, driven by various factors such as technological advancements, regulatory support, and increased adoption across multiple sectors.

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As per 1Lattice Drone Industry Report 2023, the global drone industry is expected to increase at a fast pace at a CAGR of ~20% from CY22-30, reaching US$ ~91.3B by CY30. With the global drone market poised to become the US$ 51.4B market in CY27, drones are expected to be the disrupters of the future. They are revolutionizing a number of spaces - notably military, and on the civil front emergency services, logistics, and potentially even the taxi industry.

The drone industry is at a nascent stage and therefore the requirements are continuously evolving.There has been a big surge in drone usage in India over the years. Investments in Indian drone companies touched $50 million in FY23 across 20 rounds compared to $25 million across 23 rounds in FY22, as per data from Tracxn Technologies.

The government's initiatives, market demand, regulatory support, and technological capabilities align to create a conducive environment for the growth of the drone industry.

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Furthermore, growing drone use cases and their future applications, an upsurge in startups and investments will fuel the drone industry in India. As per 1Lattice, Indian enterprise drone market has a potential of US$ 479M. Agriculture, utilities and public safety are the most significant segments for enterprise drones. Enterprises are still seeking to discover various uses for drones, data collection, and developing software to find solutions for the specific industry.

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Make in India initiatives, relaxing of Government regulations and increasing drone-based start-ups are vital factors contributing to the growth of the Indian drone industry. Along with the Government's aim to turn India into a hub for drone technology, increased use cases and emerging applications in the drone sector are some of driving factors, among others.

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As part of Atmanirbhar Bharat, India intends to develop the whole value chain by cutting down on import dependence while improving the quality and safety standards of made-in-India drones to enter the global value chain.

Advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, miniaturization, automation, thermal imaging, materials science, etc., will support various commercial and civilian usage of drones in sectors like utilities, agriculture, infrastructure, telecom, and mining, undertaking different activities with substantial enhancements in cost and efficiency. India’s drone ecosystem is advancing, driven by the rise in manufacturers / service providers in the market and relevant laws to support the growth.

India has taken on the mission of becoming the “Drone hub of the world by 2030”. In sync with the vision, the Indian drone industry has been rapidly growing in recent years, and there are several trends that are currently shaping the industry. Some of the key trends are:

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Diverse applications across sectors

  • Drones are increasingly being adopted in various sectors such as defense, law enforcement, GIS (Geographic Information System), agriculture, construction, mining, and delivery services.
  • The technology's versatility allows for applications in surveillance, traffic management, land surveys, precision agriculture, progress monitoring, and medical deliveries.

Indigenous manufacturing focus

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  • The Indian government is actively encouraging indigenous manufacturing of drones and related components through initiatives like the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme and import bans.
  • Emphasis on indigenous manufacturing aligns with the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, aiming to reduce import dependence and enhance the quality and safety standards of made-in-India drones.

Development of drone ecosystems

  • There is a growing trend towards creating integrated drone ecosystems, involving drone manufacturers, sub-system and component manufacturers, software developers, service providers, and regulators.
  • This approach aims to establish a comprehensive industry capable of catering to diverse sectors, applications, and business models.
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Advancements in drone technology

  • Rapid advancements in drone technology are leading to improved capabilities, including longer battery life, extended range, increased payload capacity, enhanced sensors and cameras, AI-based image intelligence features, post-processing workflows, autonomy, and integration capabilities.
  • These technological developments enable drones to perform more complex tasks and operate in challenging environments.

Focus on drone safety and regulations

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  • With the growing use of drones, there is an increasing emphasis on safety and regulations. The Indian government has implemented the Drone Rules 2021 to ensure responsible and safe drone usage.
  • Regulatory frameworks are crucial to facilitate the smooth operationalization of civil drone activities, while addressing safety concerns.

Shift away from Chinese technology

  • Due to concerns related to predatory pricing and data espionage practices, many countries, including India, are shifting away from Chinese technology in the drone industry.
  • Further, in the US, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 was passed on 20 December, 2019 and Section 848 remains in effect. The Act proposed a law that restricts purchase of drones by the Department of Defense (DoD) with critical components from covered foreign country (People’s Republic of China).

This presents an opportunity for India to become a preferred supply destination as the world seeks alternatives to Chinese-origin drones, sensors, storage, transmission, processing, and analysis systems.

Overall, the Indian drone industry is evidently at an inflection point with increasing market demand, regulations to enable use and technology capability have come together to usher in a new “Drone Age”.

India is definitely poised to live up to its vision of becoming the "Drone Hub of the World by 2030". The times today present a great opportunity for the market to participate in this growth journey.

-- Ezhilan Nanmaran, Head of Product, ideaForge.

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