The global aerial imaging market is projected to reach USD 3.3 billion by 2024. It will grow at an estimated 13.5% CAGR over the forecast phase (2016-2024). Aerial imaging or imagery involves capturing ground images using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), helicopters, dirigibles, blimps, kites, and parachutes. It provides useful information on land surveys, plans, and route designs.
The aerial imaging market is driven by the demand for aerial images and related geospatial data. It also faces high demand from the forestry & agriculture sector and other commercial enterprises. Technological advances; such as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), and airborne GPS (global positioning system), can boost market revenues in the near future.
Camera technologies, like Microsoft’s ‘UltraCam Hawk,’ ‘Eagle,’ and ‘Osprey’ should also trigger industry demand. But security concerns and unclear regulations regarding the operational use of aerial imaging are predicted to impede market growth.
The aerial imaging industry is split according to applications and regions. Some applications are insurance, government, military & defense, agricultural & forestry, and GIS (geographical information system). Civil engineering, commercial, and energy constitute the rest.
Military & defense will exceed USD 250 million by 2024. UAVs and Personal Aerial Mapping Systems (PAMSs) can be used by this segment for reconnaissance missions. They are also used for ground-based commercial applications. PAMSs provide detailed surface photographs at low costs.
These are built on ‘SmartOne’ UAVs and embedded with software & data processing for missions. UAVs deployed in military operations are considered too dangerous for soldiers. They can execute repetitive commands accurately even in unfavorable settings.
Manned systems cost around USD 250-600 per hour, while UAVs operate at about USD 3.4 per hour, proving cost-beneficial. Location-based services embedded with remote sensing ability surface prominently in mobile applications. They offer remote monitoring, mapping, navigation, and mobile advertising. Aerial photography aids in producing accurate maps for desired locations.
Farmers employ this technology to monitor crops and prevent diseases in them. Insurance uses it to survey damages post floods or hurricanes to settle claims. ‘TerrAvion’ has partnered with ‘PastureMap’ to provide necessary data related to ranches and crop care. This has helped monitor the effects of irrigation, & pre & post grazing and levels of invasive weeds. The data is also used as a common platform for brainstorming new ideas and solving pressing issues.
‘WaterBit Inc.;’ a California-based company, provides information regarding water quality & levels using sensors. These sensors rely on IoT (Internet of Things) technology to store data and can function an entire season. Energy companies are using aerial imagery to inspect transmission lines, gather data from solar & wind power plants, and provide additional security to these plants. They are also conducting seismic surveys to predict future environmental risks.
Government applications are estimated to surpass USD 950 million by 2024. They would spur market demand by using drones for urban planning, energy management, environmental planning, and homeland security. Commercial is touted to generate the maximum revenues in the near future. This should be credited to the high adoption of aerial imaging by the tourism sector. Other factors comprise advertisements and promotions.
Aerial photography provides land cover, soil, & vegetation maps with the help of spatial data. Its combination with GIS aids in analyzing and planning urban settlements. The U. S. Forest Service employs this technology to map sick trees in the forests of California. It adopts laser-guided spectroscopy to sense chemical reactions in trees and aims to prevent their destruction from environmental factors; such as droughts, fires, or bark beetles.
Yet another use of drones is ocean exploration. Since fossil fuels have almost reached expiration, industries need crude oil as their basic energy source. Drones embedded with GIS can collect data underwater, monitor eco-changes, and employ 3D ‘orthomosaics’ models in real-time.
These devices capture the images of oil spills or untoward incidents which can harm the environment. They even detect unregistered ships navigating through the ocean. All this collated data is stored on a common platform and accessed using mobile applications, like Drone2Map.
Regions in the aerial imaging market encompass Europe, North America, Latin America (LATAM), Asia Pacific (APAC), and Middle East & Africa (MEA). APAC is expected to earn over USD 500 million by 2024. Regional expansion would be ascribed to its semiconductor industries. Its consumer needs and rapid technological developments may also fuel regional demand till 2024.
Europe should experience modest growth during 2016 to 2024. Clarity regarding the usage of drones stalls regional growth. North America is anticipated to reign in the forecast period. This can be attributed to its telecommunication innovations. The U.S. allows drones to operate within some of its states. But it only supplies licenses on the basis of pilots’ flying tests conducted by the ‘Transport Security Administration.’
The U.S. government requires drone users to comply with Part 107 of the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) guidelines. If users are unable to comply with the same, they need to send a proposal to waive some of their restrictions. Currently, only 18.4% of commercial drone licenses have been given to real estate professionals for land-surveying.
Prominent participants of the global aerial imaging market are Kucera International Inc.; DJI Co., Ltd.; EagleView Technologies; AeroMetric Inc.; and Google Inc. Some companies market their own software & equipment, while the others lease them or operate within the industry by collaborating with software providers.
For instance, EagleView Technologies offers real estate, energy & utilities, construction, real estate, and safety & federal applications. New market players can serve as data partners to established companies and act as separate imaging companies. Initiatives are undertaken by companies to develop current technologies. The same helps the latter gain industry traction. But the FAA is yet to pass a policy allowing its use for e-commerce deliveries.
DJI, a Chinese-based company, has found huge sales in Latin America. Its biggest customers are Paraguay, Mexico, Brazil, and Chile. ‘Aerial imaging’ drones have been used in Peru to study ancient ruins. Their newest product, Phantom-1, provides 360 degree vision & control through tablets or smartphones.
They also joined hands with Datumate, an Israeli company, to deliver land-surveying solutions. This partnership could lead DJI to dominate the global industry in the years ahead. Panasonic Corporation recently launched a prototype of its hybrid drone, known as Ballooncam. The prototype is powered by four propellers and can capture dynamic footage of sports events.
Research Support Specialist, USA