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OPINION: Civil drone market in my eyes

Only companies who can offer solid technology at a competitive price will survive in the competitive UAV market, believes Hongjing LI, chief executive and president, Autel Intelligent Technology

Development of the drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) seen today trace their beginning to World War II and continued in fits and starts with some military commands testing their effectiveness during the following decades. However, it is not until the very recent years that the drone industry appears to be innovating at lightning speed all over the world and a notable shift from the military market to the civil field gains momentum.

People tend to believe that the age of artificial intelligence is coming and strive to take a piece from this market cake. Therefore, a growing ecosystem of drone software and hardware vendors is already catering to a long list of clients in agriculture, energy, logistics, TV and film, photography and other possible areas.

Though still young, the civil drone industry has begun to see some consolidation and major investments from large industrial conglomerates, chips companies and defence contractors. Overall, the market is expected to experience prominent growth during the forecast period.

Progress owes to competition, as it were. As the global civil drone market is witnessing an increasing demand from various applications and significant technological advancements over the last few years, the smart drones are no longer a privilege of the few.

Our customers are exposed to a surprising variety of product choices and offered more affordable prices ever. They are able to compare every part of the products from different suppliers in terms of shape, colour, function, configuration, performance, warranty, price, etc. and choose the most cost-effective one from all.

What is more, the after-sales service from drone providers is becoming more and more comprehensive, saving our customers from any worry about the product usage and maintenance. Notably, there is an emerging trend that consumers are now even possible to personalise their drones by selecting separate gimbals, cameras or other parts to configure their own drones ideally, instead of receiving a fixed device only. All these key opportunities in front of our customers actually bring in striking vibrancy to our current market.

R&D of drones is highly demanding for technologies comprising energy and propulsion systems, automation systems, collision avoidance system, cyber-security and jamming, on-board data processing, communication data links and radio frequency spectrum capacity. Technology barriers are at once a roadblock but meanwhile a powerful driver for the business going forward.

As IBC2015 gathers the technologies and business models on an open fair platform powering the creation, management and delivery of all electronic media content worldwide, we would be able to learn from one another and seek for long-lasting commercial relationships, making more breakthroughs in the drone industry.

Finally, I believe, only those who can offer solid technology as well as competitive price will survive in this market. With our own technology, Autel Robotics will soon grow up into a first-class drone supplier in the near future, creating another success in the drone market, apart from Autel’s impressive achievements in the automotive diagnostic industry.