Drones, a growing market: How to prepare for take-off

Drones, a growing market: How to prepare for take-off

In what has been dubbed ‘the age of drones’, many sectors are preparing to be invaded by these virtuous flying machines and to exploit all their benefits. Whether you are an operator, a manufacturer, a public body or a simple citizen, it is in any case difficult to keep up with technological and regulatory developments and to know the risks, benefits and skills associated with the drone sector. So, what should you do in order to be prepared?  


Drones: A true revolution

The drones sector is new, it is constantly and rapidly evolving. While drones were originally conceived essentially as military machines, once their potential was investigated, these metallic insects showed their innumerable faces, becoming pervasive in many areas of daily life. Instruments for capturing images, video and data, means of transporting goods and (in the apparently near future) people, devices for the management of public safety, and ‘toys’ for recreational use: drones are all these things and much more. Their versatility has not gone unnoticed by the market: knowing the business opportunities, the regulatory requirements, the risks involved and the skills required is the first step towards not being left out of this revolution


The drone market: encouraging data

According to a study conducted in 2016 by the European Union, by 2035 the drone market will have reached an annual value of €10 billion, €15 billion by 2050. According to the same study, civil flight operations are what will generate the greatest impact (5 billion per year by 2035), while in the short term, it is recreational and defensive operations that will occupy the largest share of the market (amounting to around 2 billion euros). Faced with this evidence, more and more companies and individuals are turning to the use of drones to increase the efficiency and value of their operations. Knowing the rules of the game and developing the necessary skills to reap the benefits of change is necessary in order to keep up.


The multiple application domains of drones

The growth of the drone market, as well as large investments, have attracted the keen interest of many parties, especially in the domains of agriculture, energy, transport and public safety. One may think, for example, of authorities such as the Civil Defence, which use these new technologies to control forest areas, monitor marine waters, and prevent natural disasters (fires, landslides, floods); or of Agriculture 4.0, which uses drones to monitor crops in real time and make timely decisions. There are still many other potential applications, currently in the testing phase, that could cover further segments, create new business models, new professional figures, and take a further step towards digitisation, automation and thus process optimisation.


Drones and 4.0 revolution: Benefits and potential

Driving the growth of the drone market in the era of the fourth industrial revolution is the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), a system of distributed and interconnected sensors and devices, immersed in a constant dialogue to provide drones with real-time data useful for navigating and performing operations. Automation, artificial intelligence and 5G will also be crucial, enabling these systems to become increasingly autonomous and further broaden their possible applications. Also important are social benefits, such as the reduction of pollution and the safeguard of nature: in addition to reducing CO2 emissions by replacing more fuel-intensive aircraft, with their monitoring activities, drones can be used to protect fauna, natural resources and historical sites, accelerate the use of renewable energies (solar panels, wind power, etc.) and reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture. 


As always, there are also critical issues

The sudden crowding of the skies by these aircraft has given rise to a number of issues related to the domains of safety, legal and regulatory responsibilities and, not least, ethical and social problems (privacy, data protection and social acceptance). How best to integrate these systems in the airspace? In the event of an accident, who is responsible? The manufacturer, the operator or the service provider? Which standards should be followed? How to prepare civil society for the new scenario? How to tackle the complex issue of privacy and cybersecurity? 

There are many questions and not all have an answer; delays and regulatory loopholes also jeopardise the proper development of the market. Moreover, for those who find themselves working with drones, as well as for those who are not at all familiar with these flying machines, it is difficult to keep up with the regulations, to know all the fields of application, advantages and criticalities. Above all, it is difficult and time-consuming for an operator to identify the standards that allow him or her to fly safely and operate in full compliance with the regulation. 


The European drone regulation

In order to ensure that the benefits of the drone market are actually enjoyed, it has been necessary to analyse these points and study appropriate responses with the support of all the actors involved (operators, manufacturers, standardisation bodies, research and development bodies, the European Parliament and national authorities). In particular, Europe has led the process of regulation and standardisation by drawing up common rules for member countries, later merged into the Single European Regulation on Drones, which will come fully into force on 1 January 2023. This regulation has a risk-based approach and therefore identifies three categories of operations and different requirements for flying: Open (low risk), Specific (medium risk) and Certified (high risk). Europe has also defined a set of specific services and procedures to guarantee safe and efficient access in the airspace to a large number of drones (the so-called U-space) and continues to fund numerous research and innovation projects to test new services and applications. 


Italy’s role in the development of the drone market

Italy, as a European country, is leading the way in the development of the drone market thanks to its participation in numerous European research and development projects. Among these we should certainly mention AW-Drones, the Italian-led European project that supported the European Union in identifying technical and operational standards that meet the safety requirements of the European Regulation and ensure the safe use of drones in all member states. The AW-Drones project partners include EuroUSC Italia, a subsidiary of Deep Blue, which supports operators or companies in developing drone operations in compliance with current regulations thanks to its considerable experience in the aviation and drone sector.


Consultancy and services for the drone market

EuroUSC Italia has been participating for years in research and innovation projects in the drone sector financed by the European Union and is directly involved in standardisation processes promoted by the main international bodies (ICAO, JARUS, ISO, EUROCAE). With the aim of transferring its knowledge to anyone wishing to operate in this field, EuroUSC Italia is able to offer numerous services:

– risk analysis of drone operations based on the SORA (Specific Operation Risk Assessment) methodology;

– support operators in obtaining the LUC (Light UAS Operator Certificate);

– preparation and submission to ENAC of documents to obtain authorisation in a specific category;

– cost-benefit analysis and preparation of a development plan for companies operating in the drone sector;

– definition of organisational structures to fly drones safely and efficiently;

– identification of the regulations in force and the certification required to carry out drone operations;

– EuroUSC Italia also provides ad hoc designated training courses for companies, research centres, public bodies and operators interested in broadening their knowledge of drones.


SAMWISE: The risk analysis tool with sora

Thanks to its consolidated experience in the field of regulation and safety in the drone sector, acquired also as a member of the JARUS group that developed the SORA analysis, EuroUSC Italia has created a tool for risk analysis of drone operations following the SORA methodology. It is called SAMWISE and it is a simple, fast and inexpensive online tool that adapts to the requirements of the EASA regulation for drone operations in the Specific category, in force from 1 January 2021. Thanks to a guided online procedure, SAMWISE accompanies the operator through the various assessment phases and provides a comprehensive document that includes all the necessary evidence to demonstrate the implementation of the required mitigations. It requires no specialised expertise: one simply enters the operation data and uploads the evidence of compliance with SORA’s requirements and the procedure is completed autonomously and effortlessly. 





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