The market for drones in the GCC is predicted to reach $1.5bn by 2022, a new report has found.
The report by Strategy& – formerly Booz & Company, stated that the use of drones is beginning to expand beyond the military sector, and has significantly increased in the commercial space in recent years.
Regionally, much of the predicted market for drones will be driven by the oil and gas ($633m), and utilities ($484m) industries — which are projected to constitute 43 per cent and 32 percent of the market respectively.
“Commercial drone usage is proliferating, mainly due to the advancements in underlying technologies (such as sensors, cameras, Global Positioning Systems [GPS], and batteries), a positive regulatory environment, and investor enthusiasm,” the report said.
The Federal Aviation Administration projects that the number of commercial drones in the US will reach almost three million by 2020, quadruple the number in 2016.
“Drones are making it possible for companies to transform their operations and perform challenging activities in a more efficient way, in terms of both cost and time. Disruption from drones is therefore not limited to their physical capabilities, but also flows from their broader applications for business,” the report added.
It also emphasised that telecom operators are “uniquely positioned to play a central role” in the booming drone market.
“Telecom operators can leverage their existing capabilities and resources to offer advanced drone solutions to other sectors,” said Jad Hajj, partner with Strategy& Middle East.
“For example, with their extensive tower networks, they are able to provide constant connectivity which is crucial for data transfer. They have access to advanced cloud technologies which can be used for data storage, and are equipped with data processing systems to analyse information collected by the drones.
“As the drone industry grows, it is an obvious choice for telecom operators to seize this opportunity, given its potential,” added Hajj.
The report specified two specific areas that operators should focus on:
“First, they can offer drone-powered solutions to all other industries by building partnerships in areas related to drone procurement (providing the physical device), drone operations (piloting the drone), data processing (analysing the collected aerial data by using qualified experts) and data delivery (using extensive cloud platform capabilities to store, manage, and deliver data to clients),” it said.
Secondly, operators can establish a drone traffic control centre (DTCC) for governments. They can facilitate the technology components of the DTCC, from end to end, by supplying and managing data storage, connectivity, cybersecurity, professional services, and applications, including a drone traffic management system and real-time reporting and analytics.
“Airspace regulators are aware of the growth of drone technology, and are searching for balance between public safety and economic efficiency,” said Ramzi Khoury, principal with Strategy& Middle East.
“Progress of drone legislation and regulation in the GCC is uneven, and therefore the main purpose of the drone traffic control centre is to serve as a centralised authority to manage drone traffic and ensure regulation is followed.
“Telecom operators can cooperate with these regulators to generate revenue, reinforce their position as providers of drone solutions, or streamline approvals and licensing processes.”
This concept is already being implemented regionally, after the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority began work on establishling a drone traffic control centre in November last year.