Drones: high-profile and niche

TMT Predictions 2015

Deloitte predicts that in 2015, the active base of non-military drones costing $200 or more should exceed one million units for the first time.

Executive summary

Aerial drones have a tremendous number of potential applications, particularly for enterprise and government. However, Deloitte does not expect 2015 to be a breakthrough year for drones.

We predict that in 2015 the active base of non-military drones costing $200 or more should exceed one million units for the first time. We expect sales of non-military drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs), to be about 300,000 units in 2015, with the majority being bought by consumers or prosumers. We expect total industry revenues to be $200-$400 million dollars in 2015 (equivalent to the list price of a single, mid-sized passenger jet).

Three key factors are likely to limit drone adoption in the short and medium term:

  • Drones crash. Drones require significant skill to fly and are prone to crashes, which can be both expensive and potentially dangerous.
  • Regulation is uncertain. In some markets, regulation is imminent, while in others, drones come under the same rules as apply to remote controlled aircraft. Also, the legality of flying drones has already been the subject of litigation, and this may continue through 2015 and beyond.
  • Enterprises will deploy drones by the dozens, not the thousands. Drones are cheaper than helicopters, but more expensive than conventional terrestrial vehicles for many enterprise tasks. Thus, we do not expect drones to be deployed on a massive scale to replace existing vehicles.

This is not to say that drones are not useful or compelling. We expect drones will have multiple industrial and civil government applications, building upon the diverse uses they are already being put to. Any task requiring aerial inspection could be undertaken by a camera equipped drone, transmitting footage to ground staff in real time. Enterprises should examine every potential application of aerial drones while recognizing their limitations: these are lightweight, battery-powered devices, many with modest payloads and short ranges.

Regulators considering how best to incorporate drones into existing air space will need to balance the many positive contributions they can make, as well as the obvious negative externalities they can inflict. An irresponsibly piloted semi-professional two kilogram drone, whose battery expires in mid-flight above a crowd, may cause serious injury. Conversely, a drone deployed on search and rescue missions may save lives.

Drones: high-profile and niche

1For a complete list of references and footnotes, please download the full PDF version of the TMT Predictions 2015 report.

Did you find this useful?