Drones Are Gaining Popularity

For electrical contractors, especially those involved in utility work, drones are becoming increasingly popular. Their uses include surveying, monitoring and providing feedback at new project and construction sites; conducting existing infrastructure inspections, especially in remote, difficult-to-access areas; and, with infrared camera attachments, engaging in thermal imaging to determine temperatures of equipment and other components.

So how popular are drones becoming? The passage of Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, published by the FAA in August 2016, legalized commercial drone operations for the first time. Since then, growth has been explosive.

According to the newly released "2018 Industry Report: State of Drones in Big Business," published by Skyward, which surveyed U.S. businesses with $50 million or more in revenue, one in ten of the companies that were surveyed are using drones, three of four expect to increase spending on their drone programs over the next 12 months, more than four of five expect drone flights to increase year over year, and drone adoption overall is expected to double (with nearly one in five expecting to use drones) in the future.

Why the popularity? According to the report, nine of ten companies surveyed reported the drones helped their companies capture more information (97 percent), be more efficient (92 percent), and save time (91 percent). In addition 88 percent of surveyed companies realized positive returns on investment from their drone usage within one year, many of them in less than one month.

Of the seven sectors surveyed, the two that were using drones the most were construction and engineering (35 percent) and government (24 percent). The five others were transportation/warehousing, insurance, education, technology and manufacturing.

In terms of budgets, 39 percent of respondents reported spending $50,000 or more for their drones, 32 percent reported spending between $10,000 and $50,000, and 29 percent reported spending less than $10,000.

There are challenges, though. Almost 50 percent of surveyed companies reported that staying up to date on laws and regulations is a challenge, and 43 percent reported that ensuring internal policies and procedures are followed is a challenge. Other challenges included obtaining access to controlled airspace quickly (34 percent) and having the most current information about where drones can fly (34 percent).

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