‘Drones will be the biggest revolution in the tech industry over the next 20 years’

New research from Juniper Research reveals that consumer drone sales are expected to reach almost four million by the end of 2015. The new research observed that usage had already extended beyond the core base of hobbyists, spurred by the drop in retail price and the increased functionality of the devices. The firm found that most consumer drones now offered the capability for live streaming of photos and video.

“With the advent of augmented reality likely to become prevalent on UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in the near future, this will open up further opportunities for innovation in applications for both the consumer and commercial sectors alike,” said Juniper.

PCR caught up with Oliver O’Brien, founder of the UK Drone Show, to find out how big the drone market can get.

Why did you decide to launch The UK Drone Show?
While putting shows together in another industry we came across the drone market due to some crossover. That was about August last year. We looked at the market and put the show together based on other shows that were based in LA. There are so many different sides to the technology – the fun side and there is the commercial side. We did a lot of research and saw a slight gap in the market in the UK.

Do you think drone racing can become as popular as eSports?
It’s increasing in popularity round the world in quite a big way. There are some major players getting involved and we’ve just done a sponsorship deal with one of the biggest RC companies in the world. The Miami Dolphins owner has also just invested millions of dollars into FPV (first person view) racing.

It’s very grass roots level at the moment but it is definitely on the cusp of something big – and our show will be the first-ever major UK event with an expo tied into it with an indoor FPV track.

What are some of the different things you’ve seen drones used for?
There’s aerial photography and surveying land, as well as a lot of farmers using different products to monitor their fields.

I was at a meeting with Ofcom recently where they revealed that they now use them on things like the BT tower to check satellite signals and to check they are compliant. A number of ex-RAF pilots now retrain into UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for use on things like oil rigs and wind turbine checking. Hollywood is another example. Where they would use helicopters before, they are now using drones.

With heard they’ve been used in humanitarian crises too…
Yes, in Nepal there is an organisation called UAViators consisting of a network of pilots that can send out a team when a disaster happens. So it’s very useful for search and rescue.

Drones now days can detect phone signals so if anyone was buried under rubble and they had their phone on them that was still working, drones can hone in on them and also go places where helicopters and people can’t.

Why should retailers stock drones?
People tend to get involved when they see something exciting like FPV racing, then as they start read more about drones they become astonished by some of the things they do.

Like mobile phones and the dawn of the internet, at first people are unsure where it’s all going. Drones have gone from flying RCs to flying cameras, and now they’re flying computers.

What about training?
To earn money from using a drone, whether that be photography or checking oilrigs, you to have to obtain a training qualification, which gives you permission for aerial work.

There were only about two training companies last year, and there are around 15 now. There’s a lot of money involved in the training process so people are jumping on to that.

What’s next for drones?
It’s the applications that are the future for drones. Some of the algorithms that are being written for them are amazing and they’re getting easier and easier to fly.

In the future, it is predicted that drones will have mobile SIMs, so there is a way of identifying who a drone belongs to – just like how you can check a phone if it’s stolen.

20 years ago you wouldn’t of dreamt how mobile phones have evolved and I think it will be the same for drones. Drones and 3D printing will be two of the biggest revolutions in the tech industry over the next 20 years.The UK Drone Show takes place on December 5th at the NEC in Birmingham. Find out more information here.