Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have rapidly entered the civilian market after having been widely developed for military operations. They already have a disrupting effect on a wide range of commercial activities and that’s just a beginning.
Cheaper and more popular than ever
The growing availability of affordable drones in the sub-USD 1 000 consumer marketplace is raising awareness of their potential commercial as well as leisure applications, gradually replacing the public perception of drones as tools to track and kill targets in military operations abroad. The term ‘drone’ refers to aircraft without a human pilot aboard which can be operated autonomously through on-board computers or by remote control; they are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unpiloted air systems (UAS). Drones can be powered by an internal combustion engine, batteries, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems or a combination of these.
Standards set to play a growing role
Currently there are relatively few safety standards that apply to drones specifically, although that is likely to change as governments become more involved in their regulation. However, virtually all drone components, such as batteries or MEMS and other sensors, are currently covered by IEC International Standards.
IEC Technical Committee (TC) 47: Semiconductor devices, and SC (Subcommittee) 47F: Micro electromechanical systems, are responsible for compiling a wide range of International Standards for semiconductor devices used in sensors and MEMS essential to the safe operation of drone flights. These include accelerometers, altimeters, magnetometers (compasses), gyroscopes and pressure sensors.
IEC TC 2: Rotating machinery, prepares International Standards covering specifications for rotating electrical machines and TC 91: Electronics assembly technology, is responsible for standards on electronic assembly technologies including components.
IEC SC 21A: Secondary cells and batteries containing alkaline or other non acid electrolytes, compiles International Standards for batteries used in mobile applications, as well as for large-capacity lithium cells and batteries.
Security and safety issues holding back market growth?
While military applications still dominate the global drone market, commercial and civilian applications are forecast to increase rapidly over the next 10 years. The major drivers identified for the growth of the commercial drones market include increased demand from commercial applications, particularly precision agriculture, and significant technological advancements over the last few years. However, government regulations in some markets, along with security and safety issues, are seen as holding back market growth.
The US-based Teal Group consultancy predicts that the combined market for military and commercial drones will be worth USD 89 billion over the decade from 2015 to 2025. According to a forecast by Business Insider, the market for commercial/civilian drones will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2015 and 2020, compared with 5% growth on the military side.
By Peter Feuilherade for our e-tech.