By Ray Peterson, VP, Research & Editorial, Forecast International.
With the Unmanned Systems 2015 Conference & Trade Show in full swing, I’ve noticed a difference between this year’s event and the one that took place last year in Orlando. Specifically, a proliferation of relatively small drones featuring four, six or even eight electric-powered rotors have popped up at many booths. The versatility of these increasingly ubiquitous air vehicles cannot be overstated and explains their popularity. Applications are limited only by one’s imagination, and extend to real estate property overview (inside and outside a house), law enforcement, aerial survey work, movie production, and disaster relief, to name only a few.
This reminds me of the mid-1980s when computer startups popped up so fast and in such quantities that computer catalogs were as thick as phone books. What differentiated all these small personal computers? Not much, which explains why so many fell by the wayside. How many computer makers can you count today?
So what differentiates the many small quadcopters at the show? Not much. To be fair, they all have unique properties, but by and large they all:
- take off and land vertically;
- are battery powered, with relatively short flight times that limit their endurance;
- have small payload capacities; and
- feature plastic or carbon-fiber construction.
Most manufacturers offer several sizes, depending on payload requirements.
Just as with the personal computer business, with the market becoming flooded with such systems, fallout within this industry segment is unavoidable at some point in the near future.