Two Ways To Illustrate UAS Industry Growth

By Luke Geiver | October 12, 2016

Imagery and data collected via unmanned aircraft vehicle may be the central element to the proliferation of commercially viable UAV operations, but sometimes it’s simply about the platform. On a late-August morning, our team walked the grounds of a small airport in the heart of Red River Valley potato, grain and sugar beet country. We were there to watch a demonstration flight of a 1,000-pound, 34-foot fixed-wing UAV flown and operated from the airport. The flight was part of a larger effort by several parties to showcase and explain how large UAVs can be used to help precision-agriculture experts and farmers improve plant yields, field drainage and overall crop-based decisions.  Before the dignitaries, CEOs, members of Congress, farmers and others arrived for the demo and ensuing discussion of the precision-ag and large UAV project, we captured a compelling photo of the fixed-wing UAV used in the precision-ag flights.

A freshly mowed grass section between the airplane hangars and the main runway provided an area for the airport’s assets to be put on display. On the grass, several small manned planes were parked in a long row. Behind the row of manned planes, the late morning sun was just rising over the tops of several massive grain bins at a nearby grain elevator seen on the horizon. Parked at the far end of the planes was a gray Elbit Systems Hermes 450 UAV, the sun reflecting off its wings similarly to the manned vehicles, looking as though it had always been a part of the aviation offerings launched from the small airport.

All of us at the small airport in the heart of ag country could see that day what the future of the UAS industry could look like. It had nothing to do with the unique images and data profiles captured by that UAV we would later see. It had, instead, everything to do with that row of aviation offerings, some manned others unmanned, lined up on the grass, each one looking as important as the next.

Patrick C. Miller’s feature, “Growing UAS Precision Agriculture,” on page 14, tells the full story of the project.

For those relying on more than just a unique story and instead need hard data, trend line illustrations or detailed forecasts to envision what the future of the UAS industry, we have more. In 2013, the research and analytics team from The Teal Group released a UAS industry forecast study that has most likely been cited by more people in more places than any other study of its kind. This year, for the first time ever, the group took a new approach to its UAS study efforts and broke down what the future holds for civil, commercial and civil government UAS needs. We spoke with the lead author of the study to provide you with a snapshot (we couldn’t run a multi-hundred-page study in a single magazine issue) of the report, highlighting the important takeaways and trend lines worth taking a look at. If we had to sum up the theme of the study in one word, it would be simple: growth. And, not coincidentally, we could say the same thing about the overall industry as a whole. 

Luke Geiver
Editor, UAS Magazine
[email protected]