Drone Technology Is Revolutionizing These Industries. Is Cannabis Commerce Next?
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In 2019, analysts at Barclays estimated drone use would result in commercial cost savings of some $100 billion. Moreover, just prior to the global pandemic, Grand View Research reported that the commercial drone market was expected to reach $129 billion by 2025, representing a 56.5 percent CAGR.
Given my experience in technology, biosciences, food, and agriculture, I recognize that drone technology is proving capable of greatly improving efficiencies and helping to stabilize and advance commercial markets. Moreover, expansive and nimble aerial surveillance data is positively —and, in some cases, profoundly—impacting the point-to-point logistics supply chain in numerous industries.
Below, are some of the transformational changes business leaders should expect to see in four major industries during the next five years. Preparing for these changes now will put your cannabis business in a strong position in the near future.
Imagine a world where the entire supply chain from seed-to-sale uses real-time or near real-time data for pricing and planning.
Drones are nimble data collection instruments that can gather and deliver complex analytics ranging from weather impact and crop health to accurate yield forecasts. Even complex monitoring focused on remotely assessing the health of livestock to identify potential animal-human virus transmission, or monitoring a specific field to discern the gender of plants or tightly regulated compounds such as cannabinoids in hemp fields or pesticides on food, can and will be possible. Expect greater levels of accuracy and analysis with drones coupled with remote sensing technology and advanced software.
Agriculture is the fertile ground from which commercial drones and the need for advanced aerial surveillance originally sprouted. In Research and Market’s March 2020 report, agriculture’s adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was the driving force behind their projected 24.2 percent CAGR of the agricultural robots and mechatronics market for the next five years.
Looking ahead to the future of agriculture, I see radical changes in global farming due to many new and innovative UAV-enabled commercial applications. From soil analysis to crop health, to livestock count and greater remote sensing capabilities at higher resolutions and lower costs, commercial drones will play an important role in transforming farming in the U.S. The Drone Age means more profit and fewer costs for farmers and agronomists, and a great deal more control in how they profitably manage their crops inputs and outputs.
One example is in the way some states are monitoring and regulating the burgeoning hemp industry, which is still in its infancy. A handful of states have implemented robust hemp programs, but compliance and regulation rules are threatening to overwhelm overworked and understaffed Departments of Agriculture, who, without access to commercial drones, would otherwise have to manually walk each hemp fields to determine if the acreage is compliant. Innovations in commercial drones are solving this problem. I see many exciting opportunities to improve efficiencies across the industrial hemp supply chain through aerial data collection and surveillance solutions that will help growers better manage their crops and empower this new commodity to expand, mature, and prosper on an accelerated basis.
As drones revolutionize supply chains, we already know from food delivery to package delivery, drones will revolutionize porch delivery. It's well known that major e-commerce companies are developing package delivery logistics services. I've seen a surge of prominent companies that have begun actively developing commercial drone delivery logistics initiatives as part of their long-term growth strategy. At my company, we are very excited to be engaged at the leading edge of this point-to-point drone manufacturing and logistics innovation.
From super-charging telemedicine with diagnostic imaging and preoperative assessment to delivery of pharmaceuticals to isolated regions, or to those affected by natural disasters, the Drone Age has ushered in a new era in data and delivery for medicine. In 2019, Global Market Insights projected the medical drones market would be valued at over $399 million by 2025.
In Africa, drones are reducing pressure on hospitals by getting supplies to remote locations. Around the world, it is likely that future drones will reduce patient exposure, increase safety for front-line workers, improve efficiencies, and save lives in both day-to-day and crisis applications.
Pandemic drones made major headlines this year when a University in Australia announced it would use cameras and temperature sensors to identify infectious respiratory diseases in public spaces. This is just one application relevant to municipalities in the Drone Age.
During forest fires, UAVs can identify exact hot spot locations for fire suppression efforts, saving precious lives, property, and time. As governments look to reduce spending, drones can offer cost savings in municipal management of water usage in open spaces like parks, such as what is being done in Denver through application of their drone-enabled solution to monitor and manage public green spaces and parks.
Commercial drones are also helping law enforcement agencies reimagine their efforts for everything from search and rescue to accident investigation and traffic management. Drones are also useful to monitor sizeable crowds and events to determine where officers should be physically present for crowd control.
Do not doubt that the Drone Age is upon us. Innovative companies who are ready to invest in research and development will be well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities found throughout the logistical, agricultural, and municipal supply chains.