The drone market has experienced dynamic technological advancements over the last few decades. These advancements have led to the improvement in the autonomy of drones, operating ranges, capabilities, and payload sizes, and have also paved the way for various growth opportunities. The capabilities of cellular networks are expected to enhance the safety of drones for consumers, commercial applications, and government applications. The introduction of cellular network connectivity in the cellular-connected drone market has rapidly transformed the communication process between the operator and the drone. The drones are a popular option for applications such as inspections, surveillance, monitoring, and logistics, such as last-mile deliveries of parcels and medicines for remote or rural areas with less population density. Some of the stakeholders such as drone manufacturers (Ehang, Terra Drones, and DJI, among others), cellular network providers, (Verizon, AT&T Inc., and Vodafone Group, among others), and telecom equipment providers (Ericsson, Nokia, and Qualcomm, among others) are testing and developing their drones, mobile networks, and chipsets for the cellular-connected drone market, respectively.
At present, most of the drones are connected to a ground control system through a limited range of communication over an unlicensed spectrum. Hence, they are restricted to visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) operations, which limits their usage for several commercial and government applications. Cellular networks are much more reliable and scalable and provide secure connectivity compared to SATCOM and radio frequency technologies and hence are much suitable for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations.
In all the above use cases and in other VLOS applications, the use of cellular network drone is expected to enhance the efficiency of the drone by providing real-time data transmissions from embedded cameras and sensors. Mobile networks can also enable the development of new services for drones. Once the drone is cellular connected, it will be able to access changing weather forecasts and real-time information communicated from air traffic control, enabling the on-going optimization of the flight plan. Moreover, mobile connectivity can be used to share real-time flight data online and to enable remote operators to interact with a drone operator.
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Connected drones could enable drone manufacturers and service companies to receive real-time alarms about failures or potential failures, thereby preventing accidents and reducing maintenance costs. By harnessing existing encryption and authentication mechanisms, mobile networks can also help secure drone operations, as well as support the identification and location needs of law enforcement agents and air traffic control systems.
The cellular-connected drone market has witnessed various forms of market dynamics across different regions of the globe over the years. Also, the drone manufacturing companies have recently witnessed a rising demand from countries such as the U.S., Australia, China, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, among others. The following figure represents the global market by region. It includes North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Rest-of-the-World.