Stories like these don’t occupy mainstream news in the way they once did, but that doesn’t mean that drones are out. Rather, they’re contributing to an industry that is growing at a rapid pace.
The aerial imaging market is estimated to grow from $1.92 billion in 2020 to $3.4 billion in 2025. Put simply, this market encompasses all companies that deal with airborne photography or videography. Key players include Google, whose mainstay programs Google Maps and Google Earth are used by millions worldwide, as well as others like Kucera International, Inc. NearMap Ltd., and Eagleview Technologies Inc.
Experts attribute the compound annual growth of over 12% to the current technological advancements exhibited by the aforementioned companies and others as well as the numerous applications of their services across multiple industries.
Aerial Drone Imaging in Use
One application of drone imaging technology is to get a bird’s eye view of areas that may be unnecessarily treacherous for people to go in person.
Artificial intelligence drone company Skydio, paired with partner company EagleView, uses its proprietary autonomous drone technology to perform residential roof inspections. The company has also expanded its offerings and recently raised over $100 million to support the product development of its new drone.
The technology is also valuable for governmental use. Federal departments like the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) use satellite and other forms of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to monitor weather conditions, air quality, geographic changes, and other such areas of interest.
For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s part, the agency utilizes UAS to view animal populations, developing storms, and the damage left behind in the wake of hurricanes like October’s Hurricane Delta.
NOAA says that UAS is the most efficient way to gather data on storm systems and their aftermaths.
“Aerial imagery is a crucial tool to determine the extent of the damage inflicted by flooding and to compare baseline coastal areas to assess the damage,” the agency wrote in a recent blog post. “...This imagery provides a cost-effective way to better understand the damage sustained to both property and the environment.”
The Future of Satellite Imagery
However, some are concerned that the growth of aerial imaging will precipitate extreme violations of personal privacy. While experts say that the quality of satellite imaging is good enough to recognize a vehicle, it is not yet sufficient to see the make or model.
The experts say that this is likely to change. Many predict that in the coming years, the technology will give way to a system that allows anyone to surveil anyone else. And they are urging legislative change.
“Unless we impose stricter limits now, they say, one day everyone from ad companies to suspicious spouses to terrorist organizations will have access to tools previously reserved for government spy agencies,” reads a recent article in MIT Technology Review. “Which would mean that at any given moment, anyone could be watching anyone else.
However, an article from the research website Knowledge-Based Value Research says that the growth of high-tech surveillance technology will, in turn, prompt the development of systems to combat these technologies.
“Commercially existing satellite high-resolution imagery will prompt the growth of more comprehensive denial and deception and countermeasures against anti-satellites,” the article reads.
KBV Research predicts that these anti-surveillance technologies will be driven primarily by governments interested in protecting state secrets.
“There is no doubt that wide-ranging high-resolution commercial satellite imaging will compel governments to develop effective ways to hide their secrets,” they write.
Much of this development will happen in the United States, where the aerial imaging market is hastening the fastest. Europe, according to experts, is another developing market.
The wide variety of applications for aerial imaging technologies will make it a mainstay in American technological life. And with companies as large as Google fighting for a slice of the market, it is unlikely that demand for it will slow any time soon.
About the Author
Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.