News Feature | February 23, 2017

Gartner Predicts Drone Delivery Won't Take Off Anytime Soon

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer


Delivery drones will make up less than 1 percent of the commercial market by 2020.

Even as hype surrounding drone deliveries continues to grow — some three million personal and commercial drones will be shipped in 2017 — a Gartner report has found  delivery drones will comprise less than 1 percent of the commercial market by 2020.

According to Gartner analysis, while the civil markets have been challenged by government regulations, the popularity of drones in these markets has not diminished and the overall drone market will continue to see substantial growth. However, they note, the dynamics of the personal and commercial markets are markedly different, and while personal drones will continue to increase in popularity, the market for commercial drones is much smaller.

“The commercial and personal drone markets are increasingly overlapping, as lower-priced personal devices are being used for commercial ventures,” says Gerald Van Hoy, senior research analyst at Gartner. “Personal drone vendors are now aggressively trying to position themselves in the commercial market. Recent technological advances blur the lines, allowing personal drones to be used in many special-purpose applications such as surveillance, 3D mapping and modeling.”

Delivery drones, which are capturing much media attention, are not anticipated to become a major force for several years due to an unproven return on investment. “Delivery drones will be mired in logistical issues like the time needed to return a drone to its origin point after delivery, and will amount to less than 1 percent of the commercial market by 2020,” says Van Hoy. “We expect that delivery drones will begin finding a niche in business-to-business applications first, particularly for internal services within one company where logistics will not be such a big factor.”

Despite Amazon’s successful completion of its first drone delivery via Prime Air and its securing of additional drone-related patents, Gartner says retail use of drones will be slower to manifest.  Of course, not all experts agree.

Gary Hawkins, founder and CEO of CART, says, “Given how fast drone technology is advancing retailers need to keep this on their radar screens as last-mile delivery options focused on getting products ordered online to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible plays an increasingly important role in the ecommerce world. Brick-and-mortar retailers should be thinking through how best to use these new capabilities when combined with their neighborhood stores and driving synergy. Perhaps they’re using drone delivery like that offered by Starship Technologies; a fleet of ‘land drones’ flowing out of the neighborhood store to make deliveries each day.”

Of course, drones do have potential for other areas, aside from delivery, as Business Solutions Magazine has reported. From healthcare to security and even disaster recovery, drones are transforming capabilities in many fields and they have the potential to open new doors. One major obstacle remains FAA regulatory policies, which stand in the way of widespread deployment by the private and commercial sectors.