Google and Amazon were quick to put drones to use delivering orders.
But new research suggests delivery is just one small way drones are going to replace humans. The tiny airborne vessels will soon clean windows on skyscrapers, verify insurance claims and spray pesticide on crops.
The global market for drones, valued at around $2 billion today, will replace up to $127 billion worth of business services and human labour over the next four years, according to a new research by consulting firm PwC.
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Drone technology could soon become part of our everyday lives, monitoring problems with crumbling infrastructure such as cracks in tarmac, bridges and houses and even repairing them as part of $45.2 billion of infrastructure work currently done by humans.
Construction companies, amid other things, will be able to attach 3D printers to drones to produce on site-replacement parts for damaged elements of houses or roads.
Drones will be able to perform most tasks at height, reducing the risk of death and injury and increasing efficiency.
In transport, one of the most promising uses of drones is predicted to be food delivery.
“Providing products such as frozen food, ready-to-eat dishes or even daily groceries from large chains may become be the next big thing in the food and restaurant industries,” analysts at PwC said.
As soon as regulation permits, drones will be able to decrease the time it takes to deliver food, PwC said.
Google is for instance already trying to solve the problem of how to fly drones safely in yards without endangering pets or other potential obstacles.
In agriculture, drones will increasingly be used to gather and analyse data on crops quickly as well as to do precise spraying on plants.
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“It is fascinating to see how the combination of drone technology with deep analytical capabilities is reshaping the business world,” Piotr Romanowski, CEE advisory leader at PwC, said.
“The key barrier is actually the lack of legislation regarding the use of drones,” said Michal Mazur, head of drone powered solutions at PwC Poland.
Owners of drones in the US will soon have to register their machines with the US Department of Transportation, as the federal government attempts to regulate the devices more tightly.
Concerns over the use of drone around sensitive areas such as airports have also been raised after a British Airways pilot has revealed his flight was stuck by suspected drone as it came in to land at Heathrow airport.
Top drone markets by 2020 according to PwC
1. Infrastructure ($45.2 bn)
2. Agriculture ($32.4bn)
3. Transport ($13bn)
4. Security ($10bn)
5. Media and entertainment ($8.8 bn)
6. Insurance ($6.8 bn)
7. Telecoms ($6.3bn)
8. Mining ($4.4bn)