TORONTO—As unmanned aerial vehicle technology improves, the market for commercial drones continues to expand—and according to a new PwC report, workers, long-expected to bear the brunt of the automation revolution, should prepare for the worst.
With the pilot-less flyers finding a wide-range of applications in industries as disparate as agriculture and filmmaking, PwC estimates commercial drones will be capable of replacing US$127 billion in business services and labour in less than four year’s time.
“With an estimated market value of over $127 [billion] in commercial applications, drones are making the transition from novelty item to indispensable business tool,” said Michal Mazur, partner and head of Drone Powered Solutions at PwC for Central and Eastern Europe.
According to the report, infrastructure offers the largest opportunity for automation.
“Drone-powered solutions are best suited to sectors that require both mobility and a high quality of data,” PwC noted. “Specifically, businesses that manage assets dispersed over large areas have a long history of issues that new drone powered solutions can address.”
Often covering large tracts of land or requiring significant boots-on-the-ground surveillance, drones could replace US$45.2 billion in the infrastructure market alone. The agriculture industry—an area where drones have already established a firm foothold—could replace US$32.4bn in services and labour, according to PwC.
“Each industry has diverse needs, and as a consequence requires different types of drone-powered solutions and various drone functionalities,” the report says. “Some of them value flight speed and payload capacity, while others wish to concentrate on solutions delivering high-quality, real-time data in a cost-effective way.”
Transportation, security, media and entertainment, insurance, telecommunications and mining are all other areas in which PwC says drones could begin replacing billions of dollars worth of personnel.