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Drones are not merely weapons of investigation and destruction. Drone jobs and services are exploding across the tech industry, from automated retail to wedding photography.

Wherever you need eyes in the sky, there is a job for a drone: construction, industrial inspection, media, insurance, real estate, mining, precision agriculture, security and surveillance, the list grows on. Amazon made its first small package drone delivery in December 2016. Larger drones are in the planning stages for large cargo transportation.

The FAA predicts 42 percent of commercial drones will be used for inspections, 22 percent for aerial photography and 19 percent for agriculture.

The Drones Arrive at Walmart

And the sky’s not the limit for drones. For example, Walmart is replacing inventory checkers in its distribution centers with drones. Additionally, in March 2017 Walmart was granted a patent for a system in which drones would shuttle products from inventory inside its stores to a delivery area for convenient shopper pickup.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP stated in a report published in May 2016 that the global commercial drone industry, currently estimated at $2 billion, will skyrocket to as much as $127 billion by 2020 with 6 million commercial- grade drones patrolling the skies by 2020. The FAA predicts 42% of commercial drones will be used for inspections, 22% for aerial photography, and 19% for agriculture.

Who are the big players in this technological revolution?

Bold Business highlights four of the bold innovators vying for global dominance in this booming industry.

Is there a drone invasion or are they useful tools.

The most established company in the top rankings of the civilian drone industry is DA-JIANG Innovations (DJI), a Chinese company founded in 2006 that builds drones for both the consumer and professional markets. In March 2017 DJI introduced the latest in its growing stable, the M200 series drone, designed for aerial inspections and data collection. According to the company, the M200 is “an affordable, easy-to-use enterprise aerial imaging solution.” DJI has sales locations around the globe.

The French drone company, Parrot, began as a manufacturer of wireless products specializing in voice recognition and signal processing. Today Parrot is number one in global recognition among the drone manufacturers and is DJI’s direct competitor in the aerial photography and video markets. Due to its affordability, Parrot’s Bebop series is one of the most popular camera drones currently on the market.

Founded in Hong Kong in 1999 as a manufacturer of remote-controlled aircraft for model-making enthusiasts, Yuneec has grown to become an international presence and the “world leader in electronic aircraft,” manufacturing both manned and unmanned electric aircraft.  Yuneec introduced its first drone in 2014. Yuneec produces both consumer and professional models and especially targets the first responders market, both civilian and military.

INSITU, based out of Washington State, is now a subsidiary of Boeing Aircraft. As such, INSITU has an inside track on Pentagon Projects. The US military has been using one of their products, the Boeing ScanEagle, since 2004. The ScanEagle is launched using a pneumatic catapult, thus does not need a runway. The US Navy and Marine Corp have procured INSITU’s Integrator UAV, also catapult launched, with a 40 lb payload capacity for use in combat and reconnaissance.

Drone Multi-sector Implementation and Growth

We are most likely to find drones to be both instruments of creative destruction and tools for supporting existing jobs and services. Pilots may move from the cockpit where they fly the plane to conduct surveillance or deliver cargo to the laptop where they will guide drones to perform the same services. What we can expect is that as drones are used in more industries, the demand for designers, programmers, and drone pilots will increase, adding more jobs to the new economy.

drones are invading our lives

To keep up with the growing UAV industry, the education sector is gearing up, as well. For example, to meet growing demand for drone pilots, the Workforce Institute at St. Petersburg College is expanding its Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or drone training program. Since the program’s establishment in December 2016, 196 students have enrolled in the course offerings. The Workforce Institute offers a one-day overview course, a five-day remote pilot certification course, and interestingly, a six-week entrepreneurship course, where students learn the critical elements of starting their own drone services business. These students are being prepared for the thousands of jobs anticipated in Florida including business-entrepreneurship, military drone pilot, firefighter, disaster relief, search and rescue, law enforcement, oil and gas operations, border patrol, agriculture, package delivery, forestry, engineering, computer science, real estate, film and photography, and other industries.

Speaking to ABC News, drone expert Mary Cummings, a professor at MIT and Duke University, Cummings stated, “Ultimately, drones will create more jobs than they replace, they will save lives, and they will give us capabilities we only dream about.”

 

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