Big Four firm Deloitte has predicted that more than a million commercial drones will take to the skies in 2015 as technological advances allow for further developments. Deloitte explained that with 700,000 commercial drones currently in use and more than 300,000 ordered globally for 2015, this year will see more than a million commercial drones.
Worldwide, total industry revenues are expected to reach between £125m and £250m, based on predictions of drones costing £125 or more.
Paul Lee, Deloitte’s head of technology, media, and telecommunications research, said that with average flight costs totalling £6 a trip, it was unlikely that the devices – also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – would be used for home deliveries.
“Drones have been prominent in news bulletins recently, with attention focused on consumer usage. But the bigger opportunity may be for businesses,” Lee said.
“We don’t think this will be for deliveries to our homes – the cost per trip at an average £6 is prohibitively high – but rather for the many tasks that require some form of aerial observation.
“Drones are being used today to inspect the outsides of off-shore wind turbines for example. It’s quicker and cheaper to send a drone up to shoot video footage, than to have someone scale up with ropes and harnesses.”
Included in the list of businesses hoping to explore the use of drone technology in 2015 are global giants Amazon and DHL.
Both businesses unveiled plans to research and develop drone services late last year, with projects named Prime Air and Parcelcopter respectively.
DHL revealed in September that it had been given the go ahead by German regulators to test pilot a service to the North Sea island of Juist, where drones could be used to deliver urgently required goods, including medications.
At the time, Jürgen Gerdes, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL’s eCommerce parcel division, said that DHL was proud to develop the additional service after undertaking lengthy research to ensure the safe use of the Parcelcopter.
“Our DHL Parcelcopter 2.0 is already one of the safest and most reliable flight systems in its class that meets the requirements needed to fulfill such a mission,” Gerdes said.
“We are proud that this additional service can create added value for the residents of and visitors to the island of Juist and are pleased with the support we have received from the involved communities and agencies.”
However, despite the developments, drone delivery options remain very much in the early phases for DHL, which has no immediate plans to incorporate its Parcelcopter in normal delivery services.
This differs greatly from Prime Air, which Amazon hopes will be fully operational sometime in 2015.
The web retailer wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in July 2014, asking for permission to carry out further research and development with its proposed drone programme.
“Regulators are currently working out how best to incorporate drones into existing air space,” Lee explained.
“An irresponsibly piloted semi-professional two kilogram drone, whose battery expires mid-flight above a crowd, might cause injury. But a drone used for search and rescue missions could save lives.”