Drone-Based Applications in the Energy Industry
Two years ago, a couple of independent drone industry research firms released a joint report entitled “Drones in the Energy Industry.” The report on the power and utility industries “finds a market in transition from field trials and POC’s to scaling in the enterprise for UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] operations. It also reveals the initial insights into the critical infrastructure market’s use of drones in their inspection, mapping, and surveying projects” (Windpower).
Drones can be used to provide real-time information about the conditions of power plants and enable quick and efficient interventions in case of malfunctions. Wind turbines, for example, have blades that easily wear out over time and therefore need annual inspection. Before the advent of drones, this was done by operators rappelling from the blades and conducting close-up inspections. Today the entire operation is much cheaper and safer thanks to drones, which can provide close-up and detailed images of the blades (PR Newswire).
From Novel to Natural
Drones (or UAVs) have been enjoying increasing popularity in recent years. For some time, consumers regarded drones as a novel hobby and a sometimes sinister tool in the hands of the military. Drones in the energy sector, however, are poised to grow at a substantial rate, since the industry is investing in the services provided by UAVs for line-of-sight applications, to observe ocean-going ships, to inspect offshore platforms and refineries, to inspect or wind turbine, monitor power lines, and solar panel (Market Watch).
Then, in December of 2019, Market Watch released its energy market statistics for drones, including upcoming industry trends, market size, share value and including high volume players, growth opportunity by 2025. In their drones for the energy market scenario, they reported:
“The global drones for energy market is expected to experience a speedy growth in the years to come. The rise in need to simplify complexity in inspection and monitoring of discrete and remote systems is identified as the major factor that is likely to drive the growth of the drone for the energy industry market. Drones for the energy market is expected to enjoy high profits, as companies are investing in UAVs services, increasing line-of-sight applications, track ocean-going ships, inspect refineries and offshore platforms, inspect wind turbine, and monitor power lines and solar panel.”
In the Market Watch report, drones for the energy industry market were segmented by drone type, application, and industry type.
Drone Type – By drone type, the market is segmented into the fixed-wing drone, rotary blade drone, nano drone, and hybrid drone. The fixed-wing drone segment is expected to hold command over the global drones for the energy industry market. In 2018, the market held the largest share of 49.7% and by 2023, the market is expected to increase in its size and expand at a CAGR of 25.08%.
Industry Type – By industry type, the market is segmented into oil and gas, power and utility, and clean energy. The oil & gas segment is expected to direct the progress pattern of the market. In 2018, the segment held a share of 67.2% and is likely to value high in the years to come. The segment is expected to thrive at a CAGR of 25.03% over the review period.
Application – By application, the market is segmented into rigs inspection, pipeline leak and spillage response, and security and surveillance.
Segmentation and Forecasts
Concerning segmentation, the Asia Pacific is the largest power producer of the world, with renewable energy generation in the region being high. Developing economies, such as China, India, and Japan, are estimated to grow at a high pace due to the extensive application of drones.
The drone for the energy industry market in North America is expected to grow at a quick pace in the years of forecast. The growing rate of adoption of drones for leak and spillage detection, inspection, and surveillance activities, in the oil & gas and the power sectors, is expected to propel the regional market growth. Additional causes, such as an increase in inspection activities and a rise in need for better maintenance and surveillance operations for power plants, oil & gas platforms, pipelines, solar plants, and wind turbines are likely to boost the market growth in North America. (Market Watch).
While consumers were playing with drones, the energy industry was already benefitting from UAV technology. Many companies are now using drones to conduct inspections of solar panel fields, power lines, gas and oil plants and wind turbines, with more companies joining the ranks every year.