A winning digital strategy is key to commercial drone success

By Ingo Piroth

From birds to planes to superheroes, people are captivated by things that fly. It’s no wonder commercial drones are such a hot commodity at the moment. The global market value of drone-powered business solutions has reached $127.3 billion, according to PwC. MarketsandMarkets reports that the drone software market reached $2.85 billion last year, and it’s expected to reach $12.33 billion by 2022.

A recent IBM survey on mobile and emerging technology listed drones among the top four technologies that will have the greatest impact on organizations in the next 12 to 24 months. However, only a holistic digital strategy for commercial drones can help make that happen. The execution of that digital strategy — specifically IoT platforms — is what brings drones to life.

Whether it’s a drone inspecting a faulty railroad track, your refrigerator telling you to buy new milk, the car that’s driving you home or a robot that creates car doors, the IoT underpins the technology — and that’s where the commercial focus should be. In the case of drones, the IoT platform is just one part of an end-to-end value chain.

Having a holistic digital strategy for drones that spans each link in this value chain is essential for success. Let’s examine what that looks like.

Holistic digital strategy for drones

Use case: Streamlining inspections with drones and cognitive

Aerialtronics, a Netherlands-based designer and producer of drones, recently launched the first commercial drones featuring a cognitive computing IoT platform hosted on the cloud. Companies across various industries use these drones to monitor city traffic patterns, wind turbines, oil rigs and cell towers.

The technology renders 360-degree views of problems through a combination of high-definition cameras and cognition visual recognition application programming interfaces (APIs). It also enables drones to take thousands of images rapidly and understand what the camera is seeing. For example, the visual-recognition APIs can identify issues such as frayed cabling, loose cables, corrosion and equipment damage. The cognitive IoT platform analyzes the images in real-time to make that intelligence possible.

Because the cognitive platform constantly learns over time, it can even advise teams on which repairs they should make. As a result, businesses have the potential to significantly increase the number of inspections, reduce human safety risks and improve accuracy.

Realize the untapped ROI potential of mobile technology

Take off with drones

The use case illustrates the power of emerging technologies such as drones, cognitive, IoT and cloud. However, how do you start to build a holistic digital strategy for drones and use cases that make sense for your organization? Begin your journey by considering the following questions:

Why are we doing this?

  • Would the business benefit from deeper data collection and analysis?
  • Where can we optimize costs and create safer working environments?
  • Are there opportunities for data monetization?

Where are we today?

  • Is the organization willing to be faster, more agile and open to working with drones?
  • What does wider adoption of drones across the business look like?

What capabilities do we need?

  • Is there a technology and networking platform to support our drone effort?
  • Do we have the right ecosystem partners in place?
  • Do we have data analysts and operators in-house, or should we work with a provider?

How will get there?

  • What rules and regulations do we need to follow?
  • Would the business own and operate drone fleets or work with a drone operator?

Who will be responsible?

  • Who will be an executive sponsor to ensure commitment of resources?
  • Will we need nontraditional partners?

Expect the unexpected when planning to use emerging technologies with drones. The process could lead toward any contextually relevant IoT endpoint. The right strategy is the key to success.

Realize the untapped ROI potential of mobile technology

Written By

Ingo Piroth

Mobile and Innovation & Emerging Tech Lead at IBM North America in Digital Strategy & Reinvention

Ingo Piroth is creating and expanding the IBM Mobile Innovation & Emerging Technology practice to help create customer solutions. He also works on developing the services and solutions for the commercial application of drones. He has over 16 years’ experience in the mobility,…

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