The total drone market worldwide has been valued at more than $127bn (€120bn), according to a new report from PwC.
The infrastructure market segment within this drone market is valued at $45.2bn (€42bn) and industry, road and railway operators are beginning to gain competitive advantage already.
According to the PwC study Clarity from Above: Transport Infrastructure, operators in the transport space stand to gain significantly from a potential market for the commercial applications of drone technology.
‘7-Eleven, the world’s largest convenience store chain, has recently announced that it has successfully completed 77 drone flights to customers living within a mile of one of its stores in Reno, Nevada’
– DAVID LEE
This will be through early and effective implementation of solutions powered by drone technology at all stages of the capital project and infrastructure life cycle.
During construction, for example, data gained through drones can facilitate rapid reactions to any deviations from the plan, and in extreme cases, might be used as evidence in litigation.
In one construction project supervised by the PwC Drone Powered Solutions team, the investor had savings of approximately $2.94m in claims settlement litigation, thanks to unparalleled evidence.
Other applications range from the detection and prevention of trespassing, to placement of trench protection and enhancing site safety.
The PwC team calculated that the number of life-threatening accidents on an average construction site monitored by drones has been reduced by up to 91pc.
“Drones and the data they provide are a game-changer over the entire lifecycle of a transport infrastructure investment,” explained Ciarán Kelly, advisory leader at PwC.
“Provision of real-time, accurate and comparable 3D-modelling data is crucial during the pre-construction, construction and operational phases of an investment project, and all of this data can be acquired by intelligent and cost-effective drone-powered solutions.”
Pace of adoption of drone technology accelerates
According to the PwC study, the pace of adoption of drone-powered solutions in the road and railway sectors will be driven by three main factors: financial and legal support; enhancing data processing and accessibility; and rapid technological development.
At the same time, there are also important challenges that will have to be addressed in the future, including aviation risk and privacy considerations.
“Drone technology is rapidly moving from the concept to the commercial stage of its development. 7-Eleven, the world’s largest convenience store chain, has recently announced that it has successfully completed 77 drone flights to customers living within a mile of one of its stores in Reno, Nevada,” explained David Lee, technology partner at PwC.
“This announcement comes shortly after Amazon’s announcement of its first drone delivery to a customer in the UK. However, the application of drone technology goes far beyond the delivery of product to end customers.
“Companies in the road and railway sector operate extensive networks of complex assets distributed over vast areas, generating high costs for investment monitoring, asset inventory and maintenance.
“Drone technologies are affording these companies a way to complete these activities in a faster, more cost-effective and safer way than traditional methods. By acquiring various sets of data, drones are becoming an essential tool on construction sites and during regular maintenance and asset inventory,” Lee said.