Six UAS Thought Leaders Share Their 2018 Predictions

At the recent CES event in Las Vegas, one of the sessions was titled “The Future is Female”.   The panel of tech industry marketers discussed ways brands are driving results by speaking with women in more powerful ways, considering females influence the majority of all purchase decisions.  With that in mind, we asked a few UAS thought leaders in our global community to share their predictions of what we can expect for the UAS industry in 2018.

What are your top predictions for the drone industry over the next year?  

Alicia Amerson, USA

More women interested in creating a UAS business
More social innovation based drone applications and businesses
More collaboration between policy makers and the drone industry as it relates to making it a requirement for all drone users to get a remote pilot certification/license to understand airspace and reduce accidents

As leaders in the UAS industries it’s our responsibility to assist the growth of smaller grassroot communities around the world to promote messages for responsible/safe flights. This way we protect entrepreneurial and research based UAS businesses opportunities from over regulations and set a cultural standard for UASs.

Jackie Dujmovic, Australia
Hover UAV

We will start to see more drone operators and companies prepare for complete drone automation. We will start see drones think for themselves, evaluate the environment and its surrounds, make  in flight decisions  and then adapt.

AI / Machine learning:
We will see more companies focus on how we process data. Like 2017 I believe we will still continue to see a substantial increase in the applications that AI can be used for within the drone industry and more companies and industries rolling out these capabilities.

Inhouse drone program:
More companies will bring their drone programs in house. I believe this will open up a market further for the drone consultancy sector. They will provide regulatory requirements, practical training, streamline procedures, implement management systems and provide safety inspections and audits.

Regulations (Australia):
In Australia I predict for 2018 that we will see tougher regulations and a focus on overall community education on drones. I would say we will see an introduction of compulsory drone registration for drones of a certain weight.

Gail Orenstein, UK
Global Photojournalist

I see the industry continuing to move to smaller drones with more interchangeable lens and parts. We already see that with small interchangeable filters for the DJI. I think we are going to see more standard components used in drones, allowing you to assemble a drone from interchangeable consumer pieces. I am already doing that in the field with by Parrot BeBop 2.

From my experience in the field smaller, quieter and less ‘military looking’ UAV systems are the best way to go. Both when droning near a civilian population and near military operations.

Also of course I hope to see a big industry in aerial obstacle avoidance apps. In drone journalism you are forced to drone in complicated intricate spaces and you cannot always see wires and obstructions in the air, the intelligent drone apps will alert you and help you fly in more complicated environments where you cannot be so sure about your flight path. We have this technology already but it is not so sophisticated as to fly in bombed out buildings with downed lines and I could sure use a hand.

I am hoping more than predicting that we are going to start seeing more drone journalism coming from more independent sources, more local news agencies. I think drones will start probably start being more like smart phones, with every community able to post images on Instagram or Facebook.

And the prices are going come way down. Given the risks of drone journalism I am always looking for the cheaper option as I have such such high risk factors and I always take more then one drone with me in the field.

Jennifer Pidgen, USA
Sundance Media Group

UAV as a Tool –  While the “cool” factor will remain with this new technology on many levels, the WOW factor of how much time, energy, and financial savings will be its new focus within the drone industry.  The question will be how to implement UAV as a Tool to increase efficiencies within one’s workflow.

Data, Data, Data – Coming from a marketing/finance background, it seems obvious that it’s about the data that drones are collecting, but this concept has been slow to catch on as innovators and new pilots learn the skill of flying.  ULTIMATELY, it’s really about WHY are pilots flying.  What is the purpose of the data?  How can this data increase efficiencies or decrease risks and overall business costs?  Can there be too much data?  How do we store/tag/reuse the data?

Policies & Procedures Manuals – as organizations large and small look to implement UAV as a Tool within their processes, the importance of having an Operations, Policy, and Procedure manual will become imperative.  This documentation details how drones will be implemented, specifically utilized (be it in-house or contracted out), and what the expected safety and risk mitigation steps are for the organization.   An operations manual takes this idea one step further and details the step-by-step expectation of any drone project or flight.  Operations, Policy, and Procedure manuals are an effective way of communicating with employees (or contractors) the organization’s expectations for the use of UAV as a Tool for efficient, safe, and maximum results.

Valentina Russo, Italy

Integration in IOT

Greater distribution of small drones since they’re becoming everyday more accessible to everyone

Development of drones that “do things” and not just “acquire data”


Jillian Switzer, USA

Investment in the drone industry will change in form. This means less venture capital and more institutionalized investments from Fortune 500s. And drone companies will serve enterprise needs today, instead of “innovating” for the future.

This is the year of drone operations at scale. As more and more use cases emerge for drone fleets, enterprises will adopt UAS programs with complex fleets supporting hundreds of drones at once.

In 2017, drones were adopted by law enforcement, firefighters, public safety officials, and other civic entities. This year, cities will respond with plans for smart infrastructure to foster growth in the drone industry and, ultimately, increased quality of life for residents.

In the United States the number of female Part 107 pilots continues to grow (according to FAA data).  As of November 2017 our numbers have surpassed 3,000 which is 5% of the total number of Part 107 pilots. Let’s keep it going!

Thanks to Tulinda Larsen, CEO and Founder of Skylark Drone Research for providing the updated data.
The above chart shows the number of Part 107 pilots (Women/All) by age group.

Women around the world are doing exciting things in the UAS industry. By sharing information and stories we hope to inspire, educate and empower more of you to thrive in this growing sector of the world economy!

Have an opinion or prediction about the UAS industry?  Let us share it with our global audience.  To participate please review our Submission Guidelines and Guest Contributor Agreement.


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