World Economic Forum Sees Clear Skies Ahead for Global Drone Industry

Global drone use continues to grow rapidly,  according to the World Economic Forum. In fact, there is unlimited potential for future growth, as more drones are deployed to address issues related to COVID-19.

The WEF report — “Global Technology Governance Report 2021: Harnessing Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies in a COVID-19 World” — shows a significant increase in drone use. For example, drone use for surveying has seen a 90% increase in use, while the construction industry recorded a 56% increase for remote job-site monitoring.*

According to The Global Technology Governance Report 2021:

“Recently, COVID-19 and its accompanying need for physical distancing and remote work drove drone use to new levels. Other use cases, such as medical supply delivery and stadium sanitization, also saw growth as a result of the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the growth of these uses, especially in delivery and facilities inspection, as agencies seek to reduce human interaction and enable remote work.”*

This study also found that there was an increased use of drones in facilities inspection, delivery videography, and in sports, such as drone racing.

However, The Global Technology Governance Report 2021 points out the following potential obstacles:

“. . . the research also shows new obstacles that may block UAS flight paths to success with issues which range from “data privacy, UAS urban integration, consistent certification and legal and ethical concerns related to law enforcement’s use of drones.

This increase in the adoption of drones has been met with slow regulatory change. Often, and especially in the case of COVID-19, regulators are left playing catch-up as companies seize new UAS opportunities.

But UAS use has reached sufficient levels in recent years for some regulatory gaps to be foreseen and regulations developed pre-emptively.”*

Other World Economic Forum Findings

  • “Whether for delivery of medical supplies, inspection of critical infrastructure or managing the data collected by drones, more skilled drone operators and drone data coordinators will likely be needed. New regulatory and accreditation processes would be needed to manage the training and employment of these new workers.
  • The proliferation of drones and their development from small hobby craft to larger commercial aircraft mean that some level of inadvertent video/audio collection from their cameras and other sensors is all but inevitable. This data could represent a minor invasion of privacy or a violation of civil rights, depending on what it is and who can access it.
  • Perhaps the greatest gap limiting the wider adoption of drones and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, is not one of safety or technical barriers, but of economics. For smaller UAS, economic viability can hinge as much on regulations as customer base or pricing. Regulations that are uncertain or do not allow for higher-margin use cases, such as those that may require operation beyond line of sight or over people, can limit growth opportunities for businesses.”*

The report is a collaboration between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and consulting giant, Deloitte. Deloitte launched its own Global Drone Solutions service in 2018, as it focused on supporting public and private sector clients with drone strategy and integration. The company teamed up with San Diego research hospital Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine to explore drone delivery for medical samples from the hospital to the laboratory for genomic testing. 

According to San Diego research hospital and Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine:

“While robots are making ever bigger productivity gains at industrial sites around the world, other businesses are using drones to find shortcuts to new efficiencies. Together, these twin technologies can help a number of industries become safer and more environmentally friendly.”*


Autonomous vehicles — robots and drones — are having major impact across numerous industries in technology, such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, the cloud, Internet applications of various kinds, and connected devices — are transforming business, and society at large.

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