This past January, we published our State of the Drone Industry Report, where we interviewed more than 600 users across 20+ industries spanning over 40 countries. The goal of the report and analysis was to determine how vital drone technology is – and has become – to various operations and how industries will evolve in the coming years. The results were so surprising and eye-opening, we decided to look back at Q1 2021 and see if there were any more insights we could glean from the usage data.
This blog provides quarterly insight on enterprise drone activity across several industries we serve, including agriculture, construction, and energy. Let's break down our key findings.
With COVID-19 continuing to impact global business, enterprise drone activity has proven a staple of the times. The number of drone flights and users both increased in Q1 2021 compared to the same period a year ago. In fact, flights saw 105.9% growth from Q1 2020, and users had 66.9% growth from the same time last year.
As we predicted last year, DJI's placement on the Department of Commerce's Entity List does not appear to have put a damper on commercial access to the use of commercial drones. We see this as a positive as a DroneDeploy survey at the end of 2020 revealed 78% of all commercial drone users plan to continue to use DJI drones in 2021, while 7% planned to use Skydio.
We'll be interested to see the long-term effects of DJI's status as American companies (hopefully) revitalize drone hardware production and innovation.
Winter Quiet, Spring Revival
The winter season is typically a low-activity time for drones due to adverse weather conditions (especially in the northern hemisphere), so we saw lighter activity in Q1 compared to Q4 of last year in several industries. While overall flights grew 6.8% and users grew 5% from the previous quarter, three major industries we serve (construction, agriculture, energy) all saw activity declines.
However, as warmer weather creeps in, critical projects like farm planting and construction builds will begin firing up again. We've already started seeing an upward trend in March, with a spike in agriculture flights due, in large part, to the introduction of Stand Assessment. In previous years we saw spikes in agriculture usage in July. This year, we expect to see an increase in flights in early June and perhaps as early as late May.
As for construction, we usually see an uptick in usage starting in March with a steady incline through August and even September. This year, however, we wouldn't be surprised to see at least a 15% increase in flights in the construction industry in Q2 of 2021 compared to Q2 2020.
Construction Rules, Energy Jumps
Construction was the most active global market by flights and unique users in Q1 2021. While overall industry activity was down in Q1 compared to the previous quarter (as mentioned above), construction, agriculture, and energy industries experienced an increase in flights compared to Q1 2020.
Interestingly, the energy market saw the most YoY increase in flights (50.1% growth). This may be due to shifts during COVID when many companies realized they could do more with less – first by necessity and now by efficiency.
While companies certainly saw layoffs and experienced furloughs, operations still needed to continue uninterrupted. Drone data played a significant role in quickly providing all appropriate stakeholders relevant information without as many workers on site.
Now, in 2021, we believe energy, construction, and agriculture companies are better understanding the benefits of a drone solution and are flying more frequently as a result. After all, flying more regularly coupled with accurate data processing results in deeper insights and better decision making.
As always, we'll look forward to looking back at the Q2 usage data and analyzing what that means for the industries in which you work. Until then, DroneDeploy will continue to deliver the best-in-class product to improve your operations and streamline your workflows – that's a prediction of which we're absolutely sure.