How the Coronavirus May Affect the Drone Industry


For the last several months, much of what we hear on in the news centers around the coronavirus and the way it is impacting the world on multiple levels. While many here in the United States assumed the situation would improve, that does not seem to be the case. Throughout much of the United States, people are in a state of panic and emergency preparedness. Stores are running out of basic supplies like cleaning agents, toilet paper, and shelf stable foods. Other retailers have been drastically raising prices on products to take advantage of people’s fears and desire to get a hold of a bottle of hand sanitizer. Amazon, one of the largest retailers in the world, had to remove nearly a million item listings due to price gauging. Along with the public’s fear of the virus spreading, fear of an economic market crash has been been looming. For weeks market analysts have been predicting a major drop in the market, and this past Monday these predictions came true.

Monday, March 9, 2020 will go down in history as Black Monday, the day the market crashed. The Dow Jones, which has been operating on Wall Street in NYC for 123 years, closed with a 2,014 point drop, a 7.79% decline. This was the greatest market drop in history, a situation that got so out of hand that the market actually had to shut down for 15 minutes to stabilize. Since then, market price values have been greatly fluctuating as bidders buy and sell to compensate for the crash. COVID19 is not the sole reason behind the crash, there are many influencing factors. But still, the virus is and will continue to be a driving factor behind the Dow Jones for some time. What will be interesting to see is how this shift will effect what was predicted to be one of the largest markets of the year, drones and robotics systems.

Drones and the technologies that support them have become a major world economic driving force. Nearly every military group in the world has a drone program. Nearly every institution of higher learning conducts drone based research and education programs. A vast range of commercial industries have turned to drone technologies for support, and drones for personal and hobby use has skyrocketed. In 2018 the United States Department of Defense budgeted $6.97 billion for drone related endeavors. That same year the FAA estimated there would be close to 2 million drones registered to consumer and private users in the United States. And by the year 2025, the drone industry is projected to bring in a revenue of $82.1 billion.

This past January the International Data Corporation (IDC) released their Worldwide Robotics and Drone Spending Guide. The IDC is a one of the leading resources for the growing market of technological intelligence. According to their predictions worldwide spending on drones and robotics will increase by 17.1%, $128.7 billion in 2020. Spending will focus on furthering both the hardware and software behind these systems. According to Remy Glaisner, the research director behind these predictions, 60% of spending will be allocated to new and improved hardware options. Though the bulk of spending will be in hardware, the backend software is just as critical. “Software developments are among the most important trends currently shaping the robotics industry. Solution providers are progressively integrating additional software-based, often cloud-based, functionalities into robotics systems,” he said. “The purpose is to enable systems beyond some of the limitations imposed by hardware and to open up entirely new sets of commercially viable use-cases.”

The guide goes on to point out that the majority of worldwide spending on drone and robotic developments will be in China, with the United States representing the majority of drone market consumerism. Which brings us back to issues from COVID19. With the majority of drone development taking place in China, these numbers could greatly decline. As more and more people become infected with the virus, research institutions and manufacturing factories have to halt their missions to ensure the containment of the virus. It becomes a domino effect. If the developers of the technology are not able to produce, the consumers are not able to buy into the market, which in turn limits the amount of money available to continued development. What we do know for certain is that the demand for drone systems is continuing to grow. Because of this demand, hopefully the market will as well.


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