Here’s where the real money is in drones

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The drone industry is expected to climb to a whopping $8.4 billion by 2019, according to ABI Research. But most of that growth won’t come from selling hardware.

Instead, it’s all the applications and services on top of of the hardware (sometimes literally), that hold the big opportunity, said industry experts.

All about commercial drone services

“Application services, data services, licensing and legal services—once you start adding all of this into the mix, the size of the marketplace starts growing very, very quickly,” said Dan Kara, an ABI Research analyst, at the RoboUniverse Conference this week in New York.

“The money to be made is actually in the application space to a large degree,” he said.

Companies playing in this space include those like PrecisionHawk—which combines unmanned aerial systems with information delivery and sensing technologies to enhance business operations for a slew of different industries—and Airware, a developer of drone software, hardware and cloud services.

“So the services [offered by drones] are stored, manipulated and optimized depending on what you are looking for. It’s then georeferenced and tagged in a way that you can access that data in the cloud,” Kara said. “So really what it is is not a drone delivery platform, it’s actually an information services architecture.”

Last month, Airware launched an operating system for commercial drones to help big companies both scale their drone operations, and to help them adhere to safety regulations and insurance requirements.

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