Gartner Says Almost 3 Million Personal and Commercial Drones Will Be Shipped in 2017

Delivery Drones Will Comprise Less Than 1 Per Cent of the Commercial Market by 2020

STAMFORD, Conn., February 9, 2017 — Production of drones for personal and commercial use is growing rapidly, with global market revenue expected to increase 34 per cent to reach more than $6 billion in 2017 and grow to more than $11.2 billion by 2020, according to Gartner, Inc (see Table 1). Almost three million drones will be produced in 2017, 39 per cent more than in 2016 (see Table 2).

While the civil markets (personal and commercial) have been wading through regulation by various governments, drones' popularity in these markets has not diminished. The overall drone market will see substantial growth, but the dynamics of the personal and commercial submarkets are very different, Gartner analysts said.

Personal drones will continue to increase in popularity as an affordable extension of consumers' smartphones for taking photographs and selfies and for other entertainment options. They can fly a short distance and time, typically no more than 5,000 metres and for one hour, with flight height constrained to within 500 metres. They weigh less than 2 kilogrammes and are priced less than $5,000.

The market for commercial drones is much smaller, with a significantly higher average selling price in comparison with personal drones. With more countries solidifying their drone regulations, the market is beginning to stabilise, and companies are now buying drones to test and deploy in nearly every industry. Commercial drones normally have a higher payload, longer flight times, and redundant sensors and flight controllers to make them safer. They are more specialised to a function, such as mapping, delivery or industrial inspection, so prices vary according to these requirements.

"The commercial and personal drone markets are increasingly overlapping, as lower-priced personal devices are being used for commercial ventures," said 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 modelling."

Table 1. Personal and Commercial Drones Revenue Forecast, 2016-17 (Thousands of US Dollars)

  2016 2017
Personal 1,705,845 2,362,228
Commercial 2,799,272 3,687,128
Total Revenue 4,505,117 6,049,356
Total Revenue Growth 35.5% 34.3%

Source: Gartner (February 2017)

Table 2. Personal and Commercial Drones Units Forecast, 2016-17 (Thousands of Units)

  2016 2017
Personal 2,041.9 2,817.3
Commercial 110.3 174.1
Total Units 2,152.2 2,991.4
Total Units Growth 60.3% 39.0%

Source: Gartner (February 2017)

In commercial markets, new case studies are released regularly, showing savings in both costs and time, as well as highlighting increased accuracy and quality.

Agriculture was considered to be the first big commercial drone market, but pricing and economic dynamics around tighter yields and returns on investment mean that the commercial agricultural drone market is not growing at the pace of other commercial drone markets. Gartner predicts that through 2020, the high cost sensitivity of the agriculture market will limit drone adoption to 7 per cent of commercial market growth.

Industrial inspections have been much more successful, primarily in oil and gas, energy, infrastructure and transportation. Regulations do not have as much of an impact on the market as was originally thought. Most inspections are close (within three metres) and low since they are examining equipment that is near or on the ground. Gartner expects the inspection segment to dominate with 30 per cent of the commercial drone market through 2020.

Delivery drones continue to capture the attention of the news media but will not be a major factor for several years. The return on investment has not been proven either in regard to the cost of the drone, operational costs and a single customer delivery.

"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 per cent of the commercial market by 2020," said Mr 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."

Gartner clients can read more in the report: "Forecast: Personal and Commercial Drones, Worldwide, 2016." Visit Gartner’s IoT Hub for complimentary research, webinars and Smarter With Gartner articles all focused on the business benefits of the IoT.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world's leading information technology research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior information technology (IT) leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to supply chain professionals, digital marketing professionals and technology investors, Gartner is the valuable partner to clients in more than 10,000 distinct enterprises. Gartner works with clients to research, analyze and interpret the business of IT within the context of their individual roles. Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, and has almost 9,000 associates, including 1,900 research analysts and consultants, operating in more than 90 countries. For more information, visit

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